Agriculture has been the backbone of this country. “Jai Javaan Jai Kisan” popular quotes by our ex-prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri signifying the importance of farmers in this contemporary world.
With a population of 135.26 crores, India is the world’s second-most populous country and seventh-largest country in the world. With the world’s highest mountain range in the north, the Deccan plateau in the south, Gangetic delta in the east and Thar desert in the west along with different climatic conditions starting from humid & dry in tropical to temperate in alpine, which is home to a large variety of agroecological diversity. Agriculture is the largest source of livelihood in India. Around 70% of its population of rural households still depends primarily on agriculture for their livelihood. India has achieved self-sufficiency to meet the need of its population. It is the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, etc.
Locusts are the oldest migratory pest which belongs to the family of grasshopper. Gathering at the patchy area of land with remaining vegetable forms locusts. With returning of rain soil becomes moist and greenery everywhere which causes them to produce rapidly thus changing the solitary lifestyle into a group lifestyle generally known as the gregarious phase. They have features of changing their body shape and color. There is various form of locusts such as desert locusts, Bombay locust, migratory locusts, and tree locusts.
The most devastating is the desert locusts found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Locusts swarm can shatter and ruin by causing damage to agricultural land which leads to starvation and famine in a country. This incident has been seen since the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Every year in India they are frequently seen during the month of July – October in small isolated groups. They are generally spotted in India Pakistan border before mid-April. After being seen in western Rajasthan and northern Gujarat after damaging Rabi crops.
This year has been a curse to the whole world. The world is facing its biggest setback ever after World War II. The virus transferred from China to the whole world affecting around 1.4 crores people and taking the lives of around 1 lakh people of 215 nations till now.
India is also placing at the 3rd most-affected nation in the world. When the whole world is fighting to get rid of this novel coronavirus there arises a new complicated problem i.e. untimely attack of Locusts. But this year these insects have reached before their arrival period. Affecting many states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab. These swarm of locusts have come from Pakistan and entered into various districts causing damage to crops and agricultural livelihood. This attack has been the worst attack in 26 years.
In order to tackle this locust attack, the Government of India has relied upon its colonial law. But these laws are not quite sufficient to eradicate this problem. The followings Acts are as follows:-
Destructive Insect and Pest Act, 1914
For the first time, the major utilization of this act was seen after the Bengal Famine of 1943. An inquiry commission led by Sir John Woodhead publish its report, one of it is increasing the crop production and minimizing crop losses by adopting locusts pest control measures.
But this act doesn’t specifically mention anything about the Locusts. Instead, it contains the phrases of “fungus, insect and another pest”. Therefore, there is a need to define the word Locusts in such an act.
East Punjab Agricultural Pest, Diseases & Noxious Weeds Act, 1949
Fortunately one of section 4 (1) (2) mentions the locusts. But the drawback of this act contain in section 4 (1) (2) (ii). It notifies that male residents, not below the age of 14 years can serve in an event of worst locusts attack. This archaic law says that only males are capable of fighting against locusts by beating drums or other customary modes in village or locality. This section about anachronistic nature.
In the modern and advanced era, we need to amend the provision of dependency on male an old method.
This act too states about the mechanisms to deals with locusts invasion. But it doesn’t speak about mechanisms to prevent at different stages such as outbreak, upsurge, or plague.
Disaster Management Act, 2005
Disaster management means all activities of planning, coordination, and implementing all measures which are necessary or desirable to prevent, minimize, or to stop the spread of disaster upon people and property and rescue and immediate steps. This act is evoked when the country faces any sort of disaster. Locusts infestation is an inter-state issue as damage to crop is due to the migration of locusts within the state. This act lacks the definition of any insect attack as mentioned in the above laws. It fails to mention coordination between the center and state disaster management authority to overcome such a disastrous situation.
As we know we must learn from our experience. The African countries are worst affected by Locusts. The scientist in Africa has come up with innovative steps by developing a supercomputer that accurately predicts the hatching period of eggs to reduce their population from causing havoc. The Government of India needs to take a proactive approach to give much-needed protection and security to the agricultural industry. This above-mentioned act doesn’t fulfill the basic thing to tackle locusts & solely focuses on different kinds of insects on the same pedestal. Locusts attack is not a minor problem. We need appropriate measures to amend the archaic laws while considering the present issues in order to save the nation food stocks and protecting from wreaking our economy.
 N.D. Jayal v. UOI (1999) 1 SCALE 463
Nitish Kumar Lenka | University Law College, Bhubaneswar