The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the Centre and the states, taking cognizance of reports on increase in pesticides in vegetables, fruit and spices across the country.
NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report, based on the findings of the Union Agriculture Ministry that there has been an almost "two-fold" increase in the number of samples containing pesticides above the permitted Maximum Residue Level (MRL) in vegetables, fruits and spices in the last six years.
"Considering it a serious issue of human rights violation, Justice D Murugesan, Member of the Commission has issued notices to the Chairperson, Food and Safety Standard Authority of India, Secretary, Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries and Secretaries, In-Charge of Food and Agriculture of all the states and has asked them to inform, within eight weeks, about the action taken to minimize the residue level in vegetables, foods and spices," said a statement issued by the Commission.
"It has been repeatedly pointed out by the Honorable Supreme Court that the right to food is a fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India."
"It is to be emphasized that any food article, which is hazardous and injurious to public health, is a potential danger to the fundamental right to life."
"The enjoyment of life and attainment, including right to life and human dignity encompasses, within its ambit availability of articles of food, without insecticides or pesticides residues, veterinary drugs residues, antibiotic residues, solvent residues etc," said Murugesan.
Justice Murugesan also pointed out that "Though, it is the paramount duty of the states and its authorities to achieve an appropriate level for protection of human life and health which is a fundamental right as well as human right, the reports of rampant use of pesticides etc in food articles continue to pour in."
According to the report, it is well-known that vegetables sold in major cities contain pesticides, but it has now emerged that these harmful chemicals are present in "alarming high doses" in greens across India.
The maximum number of failed samples in most test centers was of the vegetables. The situation is even more alarming in Delhi and Mumbai.
Out of 629 samples analyzed by PC Cell Centers, Delhi, 223 samples reportedly contained residue out of which 20 samples contained it above the MRL. The Export Inspection Council Centre, Kolkata and Mumbai analyzed 1,149 samples out of which 352 contained residue and 22 had it above MRL.