The Vigilance Bureau has initiated a probe into the alleged illegal sale of “spurious” versions of paddy seed varieties — PR-128 and PR-129 — in Punjab.
Both varieties are officially developed by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Farmers have claimed that ‘Brar Seed Store’, a private shop located opposite PAU campus, has been illegally selling spurious seeds of these varieties and that too after increasing the rate manifold.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) too on Wednesday demanded custodial interrogation of all those involved in “the multi-crore seed scam”.
Farmers had alleged that while PAU officially sells these seeds at Rs 70 per kg, the private shop ‘Brar Seed Store’, right opposite PAU gate no. 1, was selling them for Rs 200-250 per kg. The shop was allegedly selling seeds branded and marked as ‘Karnal Agri Seeds’.
Ludhiana police had registered an FIR in the matter on May 11 after the state agriculture and farmers welfare department conducted a raid at Brar Seed Store and confiscated seed samples, bill books and other documents.
Ludhiana SSP Vigilance Rupinder Singh said he held a meeting with Chief Agriculture Officer Narinder Singh Benipal at his office.
He said several farmers organisations were complaining that the owners of Brar Seed Store were selling spurious seeds and that too at high rates. A farmer had also submitted a written complaint in this regard to the deputy commissioner, stating that he was sold PR-128 seed at Rs 200 per kg.
Following this complaint, the Ludhiana deputy commissioner had directed the district’s chief agriculture officer to take action in this regard.
The SSP (vigilance) said he has deputed his department officials to investigate the matter thoroughly. He said this particular seed of paddy can only be sold by PAU and no private seed store can sell it.
Both Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) and BKU (Lakhowal) have demanded a thorough probe in the matter and strict action against Brar Seed Store.
PAU has its own seed shop at gate no. 1 of the campus. Otherwise seeds are sold to farmers by the varsity at its bi-annual ‘Kisan Mela’.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh, senior SAD leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Daljit Singh Cheema said it was “unfortunate that even a fortnight after the scam came to light.no attempt had been made to raid facilities manufacturing and hoarding the spurious seeds”.
“No arrests have been made. It seems the government is giving the scamsters time to wipe out all evidence and doctor their records. It is unfortunate that this is being done at the cost of farmers who will only be driven to suicide by such acts of utter callousness,” said the Akali leaders, adding that they had “raised the issue only to safeguard the interest of farmers and would continue to do so till justice was meted in the case”.
They further said, “Since the government had failed to act in the matter and it also appeared that the proprietor of Karnal Seeds enjoyed political patronage, only a probe by the CBI can bring out the truth.”
‘SAD trying to gain cheap political mileage’
Punjab Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa alleged the Akalis are trying to gain “cheap political mileage” by dragging his name into an alleged seed scam, even as SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia sought a CBI probe into the matter.
Majithia had on May 23 claimed that a close associate of Randhawa was allegedly involved in supplying “spurious” paddy seeds which were not approved for sale by PAU. “It has become a habit, though a nasty one, of the Akalis to level allegations of absolutely baseless nature every now and then against me. But they should base their stance on facts and not information of false and misleading nature,” Randhawa said in a statement here. He added that he has nothing to do with the owner of a Gurdaspur-based unit who has been accused of supplying the “spurious” seeds to a store in Ludhiana.
Randhawa claimed the erstwhile SAD-BJP government had granted license to the seed unit owner, who was close to an Akali leader. The minister said he is ready to face a time-bound probe into the matter but the Akalis should also be ready for an investigation for “acts of omission and commission”.
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