Agrochemical industry opposes to stand in same league as bootleggers, drug offenders and smugglers

Agrochemical industry opposes to stand in same league as bootleggers, drug offenders and smugglers

New Delhi: The leading agrochemical industry associations in the country, have opposed the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Bills as they are “disproportionately harsh” besides being ambiguous and contrary to the initiatives of the Central government for ease of doing business and decriminalisation. This plea was filed in response to the suggestions invited by the Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat on the Legislative Assembly Bill Nos. 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 of 2023.

The joint representation submitted by the leading crop protection industry national associations, viz. Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), CropLife India (CLI), Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) and Agro Chem Federation of India (ACFI) foresee that there will be drastic consequences of the proposed amendments, which will travel way beyond the stated objectives of preventing crop loss and financial loss to farmers, and have the potential of destroying genuine businesses and depriving the farmer of crucial insecticides.

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“The MPDA Act provides for preventive detention of offenders. Even minor offences are cognizable and non-bailable. The police will have unlimited powers to arrest but are ill-equipped to deal with technicalities of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides and Central laws governing them. The new amendments grant a free run to the law enforcers and put manufacturers and sellers at their peril, with likely possibilities of harassment. These amendments make it virtually impossible for genuine manufacturers and stakeholders to conduct business in Maharashtra, under the looming threat of arrest and detention in police custody without recourse to bail for even minor offences, no officer of any company would be willing to be nominated as the responsible person”, the industry associations said in a joint statement.

Dr. KC Ravi, Chairman, CropLife India said, “Sufficient penal provisions are already available to law enforcing agencies to act and weed out spurious seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. For instance, the agrochemical sector is governed by The Insecticide Act 1968 which enables the Maharashtra Directorate of Agriculture to prosecute errant pesticide manufacturers”.

“A single complaint from a farmer on problems with pesticide or seed or insecticide could land up corporates in trouble. Any person nominated as the company’s representative could be arrested by police on a complaint lodged by a farmer and the clause under which the arrest is made is non-bailable,” Dr. Ravi further said.

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The agri-inputs industry — comprising seed manufacturers, pesticide makers, crop protection and formulation manufacturers— is, in particular, worried over the clubbing of the four sectors with dangerous persons, drug offenders and slum lords.

“Safety and quality in all aspects are ensured and today India is the second-largest manufacturer of agrochemicals after China and our products are exported to over 100 countries. The sector is already well regulated by the Union and State governments and the proposed provisions are unreasonable as the agri input industry has a foolproof mechanism to check quality, he added.

Deepak Shah, Chairman, Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) said, “The agri input industry has jointly opposed the proposed introduction of Bills as an amendment to MPDA Act because the reputed, genuine and law-abiding manufacturers of pesticides, seeds and fertilisers will be treated at par with slumlords, bootleggers, drug offenders, dangerous persons, sand smugglers and black marketeers in case of any contravention to any of the provisions to Relevant Central Govt Acts and will be prosecuted and arrested without bail.”

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“This step would, therefore, be counter-productive and would not be in the interest of the state or its people and will hamper agriculture as well as businesses. The said amendments may also compel many companies which have been established and operating in Maharashtra for the last several years, to shift their offices outside the state, the industry associations said.

Pradip P. Dave, Pesticide Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) said, “We, along with the entire Indian agrochemical industry are extremely concerned with the aforesaid Bills introduced by the Government of Maharashtra to indiscriminately make many offences under various acts cognizable and non-bailable irrespective of gravity of the offence.”

Such provisions, if implemented, would create immense fear of unfair prosecutions among the genuine manufacturers and authorized distributors who have been working hard for the last several decades to provide quality seeds, fertilisers and insecticides to farmers, the agrochemical industry said.

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Parikshit Mundhra, President, Agro Chem Federation of India (ACFI) said, “At a time when the Central government seeks to de-criminalise and facilitate ease of business, yet conversely Maharashtra government seeks to categorise agri input industry and trade in the same league as drug mafia, boot-leggers and dacoits. The Double Engine Sarkar seems working in different directions.”

“There are several stringent provisions with suitable clauses for punishing those who fail to adhere to the requirements under the Insecticide Act which is a Central Government Act. In case the Maharashtra govt is seeking additional powers to act against adulterated, fake, duplicate inputs, in such case, such powers cannot be applied to genuine manufacturers. The bills as proposed should not be passed,” the agrochemical industry associations raised their concerns.

“The manufacturers and sellers of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides have made repeated submissions in the past two months to the Maharashtra agriculture minister and officials and now plead for an urgent hearing before the commencement of the Winter Session at Nagpur,” the industry bodies informed.

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