“The new draft bill is aimed at protecting the interest of the farmers, so that they get safe and effective pesticides. Farmers would be empowered to get all information regarding the available pesticides, their strength, weaknesses, and risks from the dealers they choose to purchase the pesticide from," environment minister Prakash Javadekar said after the Union cabinet approved the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020.
The bill seeks to replace the existing Insecticide Act, 1968, which the government said is “age-old and needs immediate re-writing". It comes against the backdrop of rising concern over the need to protect farmers from spurious and sub-standard pesticides , along with the need to assess their potential effects on the health of people and that of the environment.
Any person who wants to import, manufacture, or export pesticides would have to register under the new bill and provide all details regarding any claims, expected performance, efficacy, safety, usage instructions, and infrastructure available to stock that pesticide. The information will also include details on the pesticide’s potential effects on the environment.
“The bill also has a provision to provide compensation if there is any farm loss because of low quality or spurious pesticides. The penalty collected from the manufactures/dealers and funds put in by the government would be used to form a central fund," said Javadekar.
“All the information regarding the available pesticides would be available in the public domain, in all languages in digital format, so that farmers can make the right decision on their use, the minister said.
The bill also plans to regulate pesticides-related advertisements to check misleading claims by industries and manufacturers. “No farmer should be cheated or given spurious pesticides," said Javadekar, adding that the bill also seeks to promote organic pesticides.
The draft bill has the opportunity to clean up the food and farming system of our country, but needs to make the registration process more stringent for manufacturers, said Kavitha Kuruganti, founder, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, a farmers’ advocacy group.
“We need a complete overhaul of our registration process for pesticides, so that new registrations happen only when there is need and no safer alternatives exist. The setting up of a compensation fund offers hope for farmers affected by poisoning, but they should not be compelled to take recourse to the Consumer Protection Act to claim compensation," said Kuruganti.
India is among the leading producers of pesticides in Asia. In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.
The cabinet also gave its nod for the tabling of the Ports Authority Bill, 2020, in the current session of Parliament .
The bill replaces the existing Major Port Trust Act, 1963, and aims to provide more operational autonomy and flexibility to all the major ports in India, allowing them to take decisions faster at the port level. This would be done by constituting a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port, which will be vested with powers of administration, control, and management of such ports.
“The situation has changed over the last few decades. Many private ports have come up. We need a system for taking fast decisions and ensuring fast development of our ports and maintaining world-class standards," said Mansukh Mandaviya, the minister of state for shipping.
The cabinet also approved amendments to the existing double tax avoidance agreement with Sri Lanka to curb tax evasion by exploitation of gaps and mismatches in tax rules.
It also approved the signing of an MoU with Iceland in sustainable fisheries development to allow the two countries to exchange expertise and research in the fisheries sector. The signing of an MoU with Portugal to develop a national maritime heritage complex at Lothal, Gujarat, to showcase India’s maritime heritage, was also approved.