M A I N   N E W S

Punjab pesticide ‘poisoning’ victims await justice
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

As if they don’t matter
There are many farm labourers who relatives have died while working in field, many of them while spraying pesticides
Such workers joined the agitation being staged by family members of farmers who committed suicide due to debt
Though the government agreed to release compensation in cases of suicide; families of farm labourers who lost their lives while working in the fields didn’t get anything

Bathinda, February 18
Joginder Kaur (60), who has lost her husband and younger son to pesticides used in the fields, prays every day that her only surviving son does not die before her.

With no land of their own, she and her son work as farm hands and spray pesticides to make both ends meet. Her husband and younger son also had the same job: spraying pesticides for years.

Sitting on the road outside the District Administrative Complex for the past five days, she is participating in an agitation by farmers seeking compensation for suicide by their family members due to farm debt.

There are hundreds others like Joginder Kaur who want to be heard by the authorities. Many of them have lost their children because they were unable to meet medical expenses.

Carrying photographs of their sons, most of whom died in their teens, these parents follow reporters to narrate their tragedy.

The photographs in their hands bear the date of death of their family member, not their birth.

“Yes, our birth does not matter,” says Avtar Singh, whose 19-year-old son Gurpreet Singh Nikka fell prey to spray of pesticides in Badra village of Barnala. “We have joined the agitation as the government has no scheme for awarding compensation to people like us. I have lost my son to misplaced agriculture practices and overuse of pesticides,” he says.

Rani Kaur of Dhansu Khana village says, “My son died as we had no money for taking him to a good hospital. Providing health care is the duty of the state government. We have filled granaries of the country but we see our children, our relatives die for want of enough money.”

Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary BKU-Ekta-Ugrahan, said, “Agricultural land is being acquired at low rates for setting up industrial units. This has left many persons landless or in debt. There is no relief for farm labourers either. Many of them die while spraying pesticides in the fields. There is no medical insurance cover for them and treatment is costly.”

Though the government and the farmers reached a compromise today and the government agreed to release compensation to the families of farmers who committed suicide and those displaced due to the setting up of the Gobindpura Thermal Plant project, there was no announcement for those whose children died while working in the farms.

Those like Joginder Kaur had to return empty handed from the dharna site even today.





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