AS MANY as 10 teams of Bathinda police went to several states and also many places in Punjab, as part of investigations to probe the alleged cotton pesticide scam, only to find that the addresses of manufacturing companies mentioned on the “spurious” pesticides’ packets meant for cotton crop in Punjab did not
A team from Ballianwali police station led by station house officer Bhupinderjit Singh went to Delhi and Bahadurgarh in Haryana looking for three manufacturers of such pesticides. They found the two firms in Delhi did not exist, while the officials at the company in Bahadurgarh said they never supplied to the dealership in question.
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“We went to Delhi looking for one of the firms mentioned on the pesticide. The address turned out to be a residence where a family was staying. The other firm, too, could not be traced in Delhi,” said Bhupinderjit Singh.
The heads of the team who went to other states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Lucknow, Rajasthan, Kerala and Karnataka — said they visited the respective agriculture departments in the states that informed them “in writing” that a majority of these firms in question did not exist.
On September 2, a case of cheating (420 IPC) and under sections of Fertilisers (Control) Order 1985 and the Insecticide Act ,1968, was registered at Rama police station in Bathinda district against two pesticides dealers, Vijay Kumar and Shubham Goyal, who operated a dealership in Rama.
A raid conducted jointly by Talwandi Sabo Sub-Divisional Magistrate and officials of agriculture department at a godown of the dealership in a nearby village led to the recovery of “unauthorised” pesticides.
The investigating official in the case, ASI Manjit Singh, said the pesticides were sent for tests and found to be “spurious”.
“While police arrested Vijay Kumar”, the ASI said, “Shubham Goyal was given interim bail by the high court.”
Bathinda Senior Superintendent of Police Inder Mohan Singh said investigations were on and if any lapses were found on the part of the agriculture department, the officials concerned would also be held accountable.
The whitefly attack on cotton crop is believed to have taken its toll on 60 per cent of the crop in the state and “spurious” pesticides, which proved ineffective to control the attack, is largely being blamed for the massive loss of crop.
A Special Investigation Team, led by Punjab Police Bureau of Investigation ADGP Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, is probing the case under which the police parties went to other states looking for the manufacturers.
Another inquiry is also underway. Agriculture department special secretary Daljit Singh is probing the allegations of purchase of “sub-standard” pesticides worth crores by the department’s officiating director Mangal Singh Sandhu in alleged violation of the norms.
Sandhu has denied the charges.
The issue has taken political overtones with the Congress slamming the government alleging irregularities.
The Punjab government had initially announced a relief of Rs 10 crore for cotton growers. After a survey of crop loss and amid mounting criticism from the Congress and resentment shown by the farmers, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced a Rs 600 crore relief for cotton growers. Farmer unions, however, are demanding higher compensation.