NIP THIS MENACE

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Nip this menace

by Bisma Nazir 

A good 15,000 metric ton of spurious and substandard insecticides and pesticides have  been sealed in Kashmir division only in the last two years from authorised and unauthorised dealers and distributors. Agriculture Director Mohammad Iqbal Chowdhary talks about the menace and how the government is trying to control it.

THE Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Kashmir has been under fire recently for deliberately and intentionally letting the market be flooded by substandard pesticides and fertilisers. Serious allegations of compromising with quality are being levelled against SKUAST(K) which is the recommendatory body for use of pesticides and fertilisers.

Farmers and fruit growers have raised a voice against SKUAST (K) for not being specific about the use of pesticides and insecticides. It is widely alleged that instead of recommending the ingredients in a particular pesticide or insecticide, SKUAST(K) has been intentionally recommending the title of the product that is commonly used by the drug producing companies. Farmers allege that there is a nexus at work and the SKUAST (K) is
allowing that nexus to flourish at the cost of farmers and fruit growers and their produce.
The Kashmir market is flooded with all kinds of brands in pesticides and fertilizers, making it difficult for the farmers and fruit growers to choose quality products. We at Kashmir Central tried to reach the officials concerned at SKUAST but no one was available at
the time to comment on the issue.

Eventually we got talking to Director, Department of Agriculture, Kashmir, Mohammad Iqbal
Chowdhary. Chowdhary goes on to refute the allegations that there are spurious pesticides and fertilisers readily available in the market. Talking to Kashmir Central, he says his department has, to a large extent, been able to control the menace of spurious pesticides
and fertilisers. He adds that efforts are being made to ensure that only quality products are available to the farming community in the market. “The situation has changed phenomenally over the last two years. There is zero tolerance at our end when it comes to such spurious drugs. In the last two years, we have sealed 15,000 metric tons of substandard pesticides and fertilisers. The dealers who have indulged in sale and procurement of spurious drugs, have been booked under relevant sections of the law,” he informs. He further adds that his department busted a racket involved in supplying subsidised urea fertiliser to industrialists for manufacture of plywood. He talks about
personally taking cudgels against such powerful gangs and exposing them without fear or favour. When asked about the shortage of urea in the market, Iqbal says that hundreds of fertilisers have been recently stranded near Udhampur and he has taken up the issue with Inspector General of Police (Traffic) for the hassle-free movement of trucks carrying fertilisers. He says that because of the ongoing construction work on NH-44, the traffic
regulating authorities are allowing the heavy traffic on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on alternate days. As per Chowdhary, the enforcement wing of the department is very active in seizing substandard pesticides and fertilisers and the department does
not receive too many complaints now about the influx of the same. Further into the conversation, Chowdhary however adds that it is possible that the mafia may be getting spurious drugs from black markets in Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi and transporting them in small consignments in their vehicles. He admits: “We received a couple of complaints from the apple town of Sopore regarding such trafficking. We appeal to the general public to immediately inform the department as and when they come to know of such incidents”. Chowdhary further adds that as controller of pesticides and fertilizers, he, on many occasions, has taken up the issue with SKUAST (K) asking them to be clear and specific on the recommendations about the use of the same. “Yes I agree that SKUAST should not recommend the product titles and they should elaborate on the ingredients so that there is no room for use of spurious drugs,” he adds.

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