Agri Business

Laxity let in locust swarms, says entomologist

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on June 10, 2020 Published on June 10, 2020

‘Monitoring stations not in good form’

The country appears to be losing its battle against the desert locust swarms because of a leadership failure at the Locust Warning Organization (LWO), according to entomologist and retired chief of the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage, VK Yadav.

Yadav served in the Union Agriculture Ministry from 1979 to 2012 in various positions. He rose from Deputy Locust Entomologist to Plant Protection Advisor to the Government of India and Head of the Department at Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage. The LWO reports to the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage.

Yadav told BusinessLine that the current head of the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage is a non-technical person with no background in entomology and agriculture sciences. The LWO is, therefore, not functioning optimally.

Complacency at LWO

As the country did not face any serious locust attacks from 1993 to 2020, many locusts monitoring stations in Rajasthan and Gujarat were wound up. The stations at least could be revived temporarily, as there is the possibility of another locust attack in the near future. The stations, especially on the border, must be alert about the swarms crossing into India from Pakistan.

Yadav said he had written to the Union Agriculture Minister and Agriculture Secretary about the serious lacunas in LWO.

He said the LWO managed to control the locust swarms during his tenure at Jodhpur from 1983 to 1988 and locusts swarms were prevented from entering cultivated areas in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. It saved the crops and LWO’s efforts were appreciated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN.

‘Lax monitoring’

Today, locusts cannot be controlled from the ground; it needs helicopters fitted with pesticide sprayers,

Due to lack of trained staff in LWO, swarms escaped to the cultivated area in 2019 and crops got destroyed. This year also, the movement of swarms started in May and there was little surveillance in the desert area due to the Corona lockdown. It resulted in swarms spreading from Rajasthan to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

India has been facing major locusts attacks since September, 2019 when the huge swarms of the ravenous insects had arrived from Pakistan and had started attacking the crops in the border district of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Again, in 2020, the locusts swarms attacked the crops in Gujarat and Rajasthan. After that, there was a lull of about two months but the swarms of much larger size again surfaced in May. Today they reached deep into Northern and Central India with farmers even reporting attacks in places such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

BusinessLine reached out to the Union Agriculture Minister and Agriculture Secretary about the issues raised by Yadav but there was no response from their offices.

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Published on June 10, 2020
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