Ludhiana Police arrested one more person — a farmer — in connection with the alleged paddy seed scam Tuesday. The ‘scam’ came to light after a private shop ‘Brar Seed Store’ located opposite gate no. 1 of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) was allegedly found selling spurious seeds of PAU’s new varieties PR 128 and PR 129, which are yet to be notified and approved for commercial sale.
‘Brar Seed Store’ owner Harvinder Singh alias Kaka Brar (56), who was the first one to be arrested in the case, is the son of Hardyal Singh Brar, a former seed expert from PAU, who opened his own shop opposite campus after retirement.
A senior seeds expert from PAU told The Indian Express, “Hardyal Singh is a qualified plant breeder and was posted as director at PAU’s two seed farms — Naraingarh (Fatehgarh Sahib) and Ropar. He served in PAU’s seeds department for over 30 years and later opened his own shop after retirement. He has also written the same outside his shop that he is a former PAU seed expert.”
Initially, Ludhiana Police had registered an FIR against Hardyal Singh Brar. Later it was found that since he keeps unwell, his son has been handling the business.
The second person arrested in the case is Baljinder Singh alias Ballian of Bhundri village of Ludhiana district. A farmer, Baljinder allegedly sold seeds of both PAU varieties to Brar Seed Store. He was given a small quantity of seeds by the varsity as part of field trials conducted to observe results before a new variety is released.
Owner of 34 acres of land in Jagraon, Baljinder is a member of the farmers’ association formed by PAU to give information to farmers about new seeds and techniques. He was given the newly developed PR 128 and PR 129 of paddy seeds last year by PAU for sowing on trial basis to assess the results.
However, he used the resultant crop to mass produce more seeds and sold them to Brar Seeds without authorisation. Ludhiana Chief Agriculture Officer Narinder Singh Benipal said the sale was “clearly illegal” as trial seeds cannot be sold in the open market unless certified by the Central Seed Notified Committee, said the statement of Punjab Police.
Meanwhile, DGP Dinkar Gupta said that a state-level Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted to conduct a probe across the state. This SIT will take over the probe from Ludhiana police SIT which was earlier constituted under DCP (law and order) Ashwani Kapoor.
‘This state-level SIT headed by ADGP Punjab Bureau of Investigation (PBI) & State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB) Naresh Arora, will take over investigations conducted so far, and will also look into any other existing/future complaints regarding sale of spurious/unauthorised seeds. Other members of the SIT are IGP Crime Nageshwar Rao, Ludhiana city Police Commissioner Rakesh Agrawal, Joint Director Agriculture Sukhdev Singh and Ludhiana DCP (Law & Order) Ludhiana Ashwani Kapoor. The SIT will work under the supervision of director, Punjab Bureau of Investigation (PBI). The ADGP PBI & SCRB has also been mandated to co-opt any other domain expert/consultant or any other police officer to take the investigations forward expeditiously,” said Gupta in a statement.
Continuing with their crackdown on illegal/unauthorised sale of seeds, the Ludhiana district administration has so far raided 1,900 premises of seed dealers. During the raids, 12 dealers were found selling unauthorised seeds, and their licences have been revoked, said ACS (Development) Viswajeet Khanna, adding that FIRs are being registered against all these dealers, and their stores have been sealed.
Khanna said some unscrupulous dealers seemed to be taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation, which had prevented PAU from organising ‘Kisan Melas’ to release seeds of superior varieties of crops.
PAU has been asked to change its protocols to ensure that in the future, no person is able to procure under-trial seeds for unauthorised sale in the market, said Khanna. The agriculture department has also advised farmers not to buy any agro input without a proper bill to ensure stringent action against firms selling substandard or unauthorised seeds.
The FIR in the alleged seed scam was registered at division number 5 police station of Ludhiana against Brar Seed Store owners on the complaint of the district’s chief agricultural officer after a Moga-based farmer had alleged that the store was selling PR 128 and PR 129 seeds for Rs 200-250 per kg whereas PAU was giving them for Rs 70/kg only.
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