[dropcap]A[/dropcap] Court in Maharashtra has restrained the state government from taking any coercive action against the farmers for sowing banned herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBT) cotton seeds in their farms.
The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justices PN Deshmukh and Pushpa V Ganediwala has issued notices to the Central government and state government, seeking their response before September 16.
Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers association has been running a campaign against the Maharashtra government’s move banning HTBT seeds. On June 10, scores of agitated farmers gathered at the farm of Lalit Bahale, a Sanghatana leader in village Akoli. Amid sloganeering, the activists sowed the seeds to get their protest registered.
On June 24, farmers gathered and sowed the seeds on the farm of Laxmikant Kauthakar, another Sanghatana leader.
Almost two weeks later, state’s Agriculture Department filed police complaints against the farmers and eventually, two FIRs were registered against as many as 30 farmers.
The police alleged the offences under section 420 of IPC, section 15 (1) of Environment Protection Act, 1986, section 7(a)(b)(c)(d) of Seeds Act, 1966.
“In spite of this high-handed action by the police, thousands of farmers in Vidharbha region sowed HT Bt seed in this season,” Shetkari Sanghatana said in a press statement, adding that it has moved the court for getting the FIRs quashed.
Advocates Satish Borulkar and Dharaskar have contended before the High Court that the seeds sown by the accused farmers were available in the market. “Farmers have not produced any seeds. The seeds sowed by them are available in the market, which they bought through bona fide mean,” they argued before the court, stressing that “the HTBT cotton seeds are beneficial to the farmers as their usage lessens the costs of cotton production and gives better yield. The HTBT seed is effective in preventing the cotton produce from boll-worm”.
The public prosecutor, however, argued before the court that HTBT seed is prohibited in India as it has been declared “hazardous” by the farm experts. “Therefore, an invocation of provisions of Environment Protection Act, 1986 is justified,” he remarked during the argument.