Multiple panels formed, yet Centre flip-flops on banning toxic pesticides
NEW DELHI, MARCH 26: India recently removed a ban on 24 pesticides, raising concerns of environmentalists. Before that, it continued to ban only 3 pesticides. The recent decision is a U-turn by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW) from its May 2020 decision to ban all 27 pesticides.
Meanwhile, a couple of petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court asking for a complete ban on the use and manufacture of all 27 pesticides, as recommended by 2 expert committees.
The MoAFW formed a committee headed by Scientist Dr Anupam Varma in August 2013 to examine the justification of its continued use. Later, another 66 pesticides were added. Dr. Varma submitted reports in December 2015 in 4 volumes in which the committee categorically recommended a ban on 13 pesticides out of 66. Six of them were to be phased out by 2020. The reports recommended the use 18 pesticides while suggesting data requirement for 27 pesticides.
“If I remember correctly, our committee didn’t find data to take any call on those 27 pesticides and urged the Government to provide field use data by 2017”, Varma told this newspaper.
Later, the pesticides industry association made objections to the committee’s recommendations. Then, in 2017, the Government formed another Dr SK Malhotra Committee. The committee recommended the continued ban on 27 pesticides in 2018.
After that, another sub-committee was formed by the pesticide Registration Committee (RC) ~ an apex body to regulate pesticides in India ~ to review 27 pesticides under Dr SK Khurana. Based on Khurana observation, MoFAW issued a draft notification to ban pesticides in May 2020.
Later the Industry body filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court and got a stay on the ban order.
“It is a story of review committee after review committee and the industry’s delaying tactics”, says Vinay Saini, an independent pesticide expert.
Dr Rajendran recommended a prohibition on 3 pesticides only. Officials said the Union Home Ministry is “closely monitoring” the situation in the State following renewed.