Par panel backs govt proposal on penalty, jail term in Pesticide Management Bill

NEW DELHI, Dec 21: Amid concerns expressed by the industry bodies, a parliamentary panel on Tuesday said the proposed penalty and jail term for violation of the Pesticide Management Bill, 2020, are “essential” to check the sale of fake and spurious pesticides in the country.

The Bill, which was vetted by the Parliament Standing Committee on Agriculture headed by P C Gaddigoudar that tabled its report in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, proposed monetary fines for the first two offences, while jail term of one year in case of a third conviction.

“The committee appreciate the government for incorporating such penal provisions, which will go a long way in ensuring safety and security to farmers/other end-users as well as the environment,” the panel said in the report.

The committee opined that the provisions in the Bill regarding offences and punishment are “essential” to ensure “deterrence”, it said.

The panel further said it is aware that the country is facing huge challenges of fake and spurious pesticides that affect the farmers.

“It has been suggested to the committee that stringent penal provisions should be there to counter this,” it added.

According to the panel, the agriculture ministry has also stated that the offences under this Bill are graded and only a third conviction attracts a higher penalty. Further, more serious offences like the sale of unlicensed or unregistered, banned pesticides attract a more stringent penalty.

During stakeholders’ consultations, industry body FICCI had submitted to the panel that the punishment needs to be segregated depending on minor or major offences. It had also suggested decriminalisation of minor offences, the report said.

On the other side, farmers’ body Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) had pitched for stringent punishment for retailers and manufacturers also. It suggested a fine of Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore and a jail term of up to five years for violation, it added.

To ensure the safety of end-users like farmers, the committee suggested that the label/ leaflet of the pesticide should contain information related to antidote that may be used in case of accidental consumption of the pesticide.

Further, the committee also recommended that suitable provisions be incorporated in this Bill for the supply of PPE kits to farmers, especially for administering hazardous pesticides by the manufacturers/ sellers of such pesticides.

The panel stated that there is ‘No Specific Provision’ incorporated in the Bill regarding the accountability of pesticide inspectors and pesticide analysts. It added, “The pesticide inspectors have been given sweeping powers related to search, seize, issuing of stop order for sale of pesticides, etc. Under this bill without any system of checks and balances.”

The committee is of the opinion that there should be some accountability mechanism to deter pesticides inspectors from misusing their powers under the Bill.

It recommended setting up of a concrete grievance redressal mechanism against inspectors and pesticide analysts, who act vexatiously or without any reasonable ground under provisions of this Bill.

An online portal should be created to receive complaints against such inspectors, where the status of applications of complaints should be updated regularly. Further, the enquiry process of such complaints should be completed within 30 days and action be taken against the errant officials under relevant conduct rules, the report added.

On the issue of the sale of spurious, counterfeit and sub-standard pesticides, the panel said this needs to be addressed in the Bill and recommended setting up of an online portal wherein the inspectors are required to fill in the details of the sample collected on a real-time basis, uploading of documentary evidences such as pictures of samples, and facility from where sample collected, among others.

The committee also noted that a ‘No Specific Provision’ has been made in the Bill to promote integrated pest management (IPM).

The panel also recommended that extension services to be provided for ‘safe pesticide usage’ should be incorporated in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Bill and suitable provisions to this effect should be made at appropriate places in the Bill.

Further, the panel noted that “promoting pesticides that are biological and based on traditional knowledge” is one of the objectives of this Bill.

“However, no specific provision has been made in the Bill in this regard. …The committee, therefore, recommend that process of granting registration to bio-pesticides should be made easier as compared to chemical pesticides,” it added.

The Pesticide Management Bill, 2020, was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture on June 2, 2021, for examination and a report within three months. The committee sought an extension of time as the deliberations on the Bill could not be completed within the prescribed time. (PTI)