Pesticide Management Bill, 2017

The Pesticide Management Bill, 2017 is yet another Bill that is to be tabled by the Agriculture Ministry in the next three months. The Bill is being finalized in order to protect farmers and promote the safe use of pesticides. This will play a key role in increasing productivity and reducing crop loss for the farmers.

Objectives

Some of the objectives stated in the Bill are:

  • To ensure the availability of quality pesticides.
  • To prevent or minimize the contamination of agricultural commodities from the pesticide residue.
  • To create an awareness among the farmers and other users of pesticides about its safe and judicious use.

Salient Features

The key features of this bill are as follows:

Replacement
  • The Bill will act as a replacement of the Insecticides Act, 1968 once it is given assent to become an Act.
Registration and licensing
  • The Bill provides for stricter guidelines on registration and licensing of new molecules. Provisional registration of new pesticides is allowed only when a ‘national exigency’ arises and such registration is to last for a period of 2 years.
Powers of the state government
  • The state governments have been given the responsibility of reporting cases of pesticide poisoning to the Centre on a quarterly basis. It also gives the state power to ban a chemical pesticide for a period of 6 months instead of the current period of 2 months.
Disclosure
  • The Bill stipulates that any pesticide sold to a farmer, producer, distributor, retailer, pest control operator or stockist must disclose the expected safety, efficacy and performance of the pesticide under the given conditions.
Compensation
  • Under the Bill the affected users are entitled to get compensation under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in case of any damage to health or environment caused by the use of such pesticides.
Punishment
  • In case of sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides the maximum punishment is five years’ imprisonment coupled with a penalty of Rs 50 lakhs. The punishment has increased from earlier three years’ imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 2000.

Possible Loopholes in the Bill

The main stakeholders like the farmers and the industrialists have criticized the draft Bill in many respects and have sought amendments in it. Some of the loopholes identified are:

Unclear liability
  • The Bill does not specifically provide for the persons who are to be held liable in case of damage caused by the use of pesticides. Earlier a Parliamentary panel had suggested that inspectors also be held responsible for growth and approval of spurious pesticides. But this has not been incorporated. So, in the event of claiming compensation, it is not possible to identify the wrongdoer clearly.
Ambiguous definitions
  • The definitions of the terms like spurious, pests etc. leaves a huge scope of interpretation and can result in multiple unnecessary litigations. This can deter the victims from claiming remedy and lead to a spurt in the problem. Further, the definition of the term ‘user’ has not been provided for in the Bill which may increase burden on farmers to prove proper use of the pesticides. Otherwise, they can become victims of punishment under the Bill.
Improper authority
  • The Centre for Science and Environment has criticized the Bill for not following the global standards which provide for the regulation of pesticides by the health ministry and not the agriculture ministry.

In simple words, the Bill has mainly been criticized for not keeping safety as the primary goal but rather focusing more on the efficacy and pest control. The recent pesticide related deaths call in more of the safety issue rather than pest control.

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