Acting on the inquiry report, submitted by Special Agriculture Secretary Daljit Singh, which has “indicted” suspended agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu and due to which Deputy Director (cotton extension) Parminder Singh and then Joint Director Agriculture Balwinder Singh Sohal have been charge sheeted for “irregularities” in purchase of Oberon brand pesticide to tackle white fly attack on cotton, the Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday launched investigations.
It has registered a case under section 420 (cheating), section 409 (criminal breach of trust), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and under section 13 (2) read with section (13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 at State Crime Police Station at SAS Nagar. The case would be investigated by State Crime Police Station Assistant Inspector General Nilambari Jagdale.
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In another development in the case, the Bathinda police have decided to approach Enforcement Directorate in connection with the recovery of 11,000 US dollars and 3,000 Canadian dollars from the Chandigarh residence of Sandhu at the time of his arrest in a spurious pesticides sale case dating back to September 2.
Sandhu, as per police, was named in that case and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act added after one of the accused arrested earlier in the case told police that Sandhu received money to renew licenses under which spurious pesticides were sold. “We are approaching Enforcement Directorate in connection with recovery of US and Canadian dollars from the residence of Sandhu,” said Bathinda Senior Superintendent of Police Inder Mohan Singh Bhatti.
And in what is likely to further enlarge the scope of police investigations into the case, the report by Daljit Singh has noted that two purity tests on the same batch of Oberon — one conducted when Sandhu was at the helm and another after the controversy broke out — have yielded different results.
As per the report, the initial Oberon samples were tested at the Panchkula-based Idma Laboratories in four phases between June 16, 2015, and July 13, 2015. The tests were conducted on three samples of batch number OBNSA 5027 and one sample of batch number OBNSA 5042.
Once the controversy over purchase of “sub-standard” pesticide erupted, the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) conducted tests on 10 samples and noted that sample of same batch number OBNSA 5027 collected from Bathinda had a purity of 17.50 per cent as against 22.9 per cent, the percentage of purity mentioned in the formulation. Also, the purity of other Oberon pesticide batch number OBNSA 5042 was noted to be 16.68 percent, again lower than the percentage mentioned in the formulation.
“Out of these samples, two samples of Oberon with batch No.OBNSA 5027 and OBNSA 5042 were not found to fulfil the BIS criteria for the purity of formulations,” the probe report concludes.
The report also claims that the pesticide was bought in packings of half a litre and a litre and after negotiations with Bayer company, the purchase rate was reduced by Rs 100 per litre.
The agriculture department paid in advance 90 per cent of Rs 16 lakh – which was basically 50 per cent subsidy part for farmers – to the company for purchase of pesticide worth over Rs 33 crore. And as the pesticide was purchased by the farmers, the district agriculture authorities sent the cheques and demand drafts to Chandigarh headquarter of the department from where these were sent to Bayer.
After the issue of “sub standard” pesticides being “ineffective” to check the white fly attack snowballed into a controversy, the payments to the company were stopped. Deputy Director (Cotton) Sukhdev Singh told that payment to the tune of Rs 6.5 crore stood stopped. “This includes Rs. 1.66 crore from the government side and remaining from the purchases made by the farmers,” he added.