Apr 11, 2012 - Rashme Sehgal |
Increasing use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture is playing havoc with the farming community apart from resulting in increased levels of water contamination.
A recent epidemiological study has shown the presence of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury apart from much higher levels of pesticides in the water across Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
The situation has got exacerbated with the unavailability of rural workers during the peak harvesting and sowing months forcing farmers to use pesticides/herbicides and opt for rapid mechanisation.
Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma warns, “Increased mechanisation and pesticide use has raised investment levels for even small farmers. But since most of these purchases are being done on credit, a crop failure means they are in deep trouble.”
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has warned against this trend and had even requested minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh to freeze the MGNREGA rural job scheme during the peak agricultural season to allow farm labour to be available for agricultural work.
The Economic Survey 2012 has also seconded Mr Pawar’s warning that the agricultural crisis has worsened in the last five years which is the time that the MGNREGA has been around.
Umendra Dutta of the Kheti Virasat Mission points out, “Farmers are encouraged to use excessive pesticides instead of farming organically. Herbicides are being used to remove weeds because there is no labour to do the farm work.”
Officials in the Central Water Commission warn of over 100 different pesticides that are presently found in groundwater samples which can take many years to clean up.
Cleaning ground water is a difficult task and a Minister of Environment and Forests survey found that 58 per cent of drinking waters drawn from various hand pumps and wells in Bhopal remains contaminated with organ chlorine pesticides even though the gas leak took place over 25 years ago.
Shortage of farm labour has also resulted in the creation of a National Mission on Farm Mechanisation. `This is strange in a country where large numbers of people are said to be unemployed,’ said Dutta.
Devinder Sharma adds, Rs Travelling across the country, workers will be found sitting idle. There is so much corruption in the Rs 35,000 crore MGNREGA that workers just need to sign to get depressed wages. They do not need to do nay work at all.’