Farmer deaths tied to pesticide sprays? Andhra Pradesh CM promises scrutiny

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Visakhapatnam: A mechanical engineer from Andhra Pradesh raised the issue of farmer deaths caused due to automation choosing more harmful chemical ratios while spraying pesticides, at an interaction between state chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and ‘progressive’ farmers at the Agtech summit held in Visakhapatnam on Thursday.

In response, Naidu said his government would look into the matter and consider forming a policy.

“In the usage of low-volume and ultra-low volume sprays (of pesticides), the automisation ratio (which is the proportion of water mixed with chemicals), is not regulated and is automated. It changes the surface chemistry of the active particles (chemicals) automatically. If proper safety is not taken, it will have a lot of bad effects on humans and the entire surrounding ecosystem (due to a higher presence of chemicals),” explained Rajkumar Bollem, an operations manager for a private company.

Bollem, who belongs to the Prakasam district and works in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, claimed that 39 farmers in Maharashtra had recently died due to this problem. “That was the official number, but unofficially, it was about 200. There also needs to be a policy regulating drones that spray pesticides,” he told Mint on the sidelines of the event.

Taking note, Naidu said there was a need for regulating automated sprays and also drone usage. He added that his government would also look into the other matters presented to him by farmers during the interaction.

“We will even give more preference to farmers than industries. More youth should become agri(cultural) entrepreneurs and not just entrepreneurs,” he said, addressing farmers at the interaction. Naidu also said his government would provide all the resources required by the agriculture sector without any restraint.

J.B. Appa Rao, a former employee of Andhra Pradesh Grameen Bank who took to farming post retirement, said one of the major challenges in the agriculture sector is getting back equal or more returns than the money invested in farming. Untimely rains only add to the problem, he added.

“This year I have opted for a new variety of sugar-free rice that was introduced last year. Earlier we used to go for traditional varieties of farming,” Rao said.

P. Rameshwar Rao, a sugarcane farmer, presented a pen-drive and file comprising photos of his farm to the state government, to showcase his farm practices. “I wanted to show the government my success,” he told the gathering.