Restricting Use of Banned Pesticides a Tough Task as Committees Change
In an ongoing PIL that seeks Supreme Court’s directions for concrete action on harmful pesticides and their phasing out in India, in its last hearing a month ago, the court directed the petitioners to make a representation to the “J S Sandhu Committee” within 15 days.
However, the said committee ceased to exist and a new committee was reconstituted some months ago. A recent press release by a non-government organisation, which is also the lead petitioner of the public interest litigation, has brought out this fact.
The court ordered, “Since the matter is of urgent nature, let the recommendations be finalised by the committee expeditiously, preferably within three months, and if decision is taken to ban a particular pesticide, let it be implemented 15 days thereafter.”
The existence and functioning of such a committee was highlighted by the Government of India counsel during the hearing on March 19, 2018, in writ petition (c) 1079 of 2017. However, to the petitioners’ surprise, when they sent their submission to ICAR on March 27, 2018, they found that no such J S Sandhu Committee was functioning in the ministry of agriculture & farmers’ welfare.
Dr J S Sandhu, who was the ICAR deputy director-general (crop science) and chair of the registration committee of CIBRC (the apex regulatory body for pesticides in India) had retired in July 2017, it was found, even though the government counsel referred to the ‘Committee headed by Dr J S Sandhu’ in a March 2018 hearing. After inquiries and communication initiated with CIBRC, the petitioners were informed on April 16, 2018, that in October 2017, the committee was reconstituted with Dr S K Malhotra, agriculture commissioner, DA&FW, as the chairperson.
“It is indeed a very sad state of regulatory affairs in the country when it comes to pesticides. This petition was filed soon after the acute pesticide poisoning incidents that emerged in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, in November 2017.” The petition contended that even the Anupam Verma Committee’s mandate was narrowed by the government to 66 pesticides (“bannable” pesticides, as Parliament replies refer to these), when there are at least 99 pesticides being used in India, which have been banned or restricted elsewhere in the world. The petition prayed for all these pesticides to be banned in India too, after citing numerous studies on the health impacts of these pesticides mainly on farmers and agricultural workers. This is the violation of the 'Right To Life' of these citizens.
By BOA Bureau