Rejecting the allegations levelled by NAFED chairman of interference by state government in procurement of groundnut from Gujarat, state Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Ranchhod Faldu on Wednesday accused the cooperative body’s chief of negligence and eschewing responsibility.
A day after NAFED chairman Vaghji Boda alleged corruption in groundnut procurement at a press conference and demanded a probe into it, the minister wrote a letter to him claiming that the state government had “merely extended help to the NAFED in the groundnut procurement”.
“In the beginning of the season, arrivals (of groundnut) in agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) were huge. But NAFED was unable to open adequate number of procurement centres, leading to hue and cry from farmers. The farmers had made representations to Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and Agriculture Minister. Respecting the feelings of farmers, the state government made an effort to help NAFED, and the state administration helped set up more groundnut procurement centres and hire godowns for storing groundnut. The state government extended help in the interests of farmers though, otherwise, it was the sole responsibility of NAFED to make all these arrangements,” Faldu wrote in the letter, which he also released to the media.
The allegations and counter-allegation come in the backdrop of several instances of groundnut godowns catching fire, raising questions and suspicions. NAFED chairman has alleged cooperative societies which had been assigned the task of operating procurement centres had indulged in corrupt practices like mixing soil in groundnut.
Faldu, however, questioned the timing of Boda’s allegations, saying the process of groundnut procurement and other agricultural produce by NAFED has been going on in the state for the last seven to eight months. “If Boda had suspicion of irregularities in procurement, why did he not raise questions there and then? Why did he not write to the state government then and sought action if there was any corruption in the procurement? When groundnut godowns caught fire, state government officers tried to put it out. But where was NAFED chairman? It was their groundnut basically. Statements made by Boda suggest that he is now trying to save his skin and cover his inaction,” the minister said in Gandhinagar.
Accusing NAFED of not being alert at the time of procurement, Faldu said, “The state government filed police complaints soon after the incidents of godowns catching fire, and asked the CID-Crime) to probe the incidents… and also cancelled authorisation for groundnut procurement of those cooperative societies against which complaints of irregularities were received. It was your responsibility to do it. But you did nothing,” the letter read.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assigned you (NAFED) the job of procuring groundnut worth Rs 25,000 crore to protect the interests of farmers. If you fail to do your duty, you are committing a crime against farmers and losing the confidence of the Government of India. You should answer to farmers of the state as to why did you do this,” the minister added.
NAFED had procured 8.3 lakh tonne of groundnut last season as farmers harvested a bumper production of 32 lakh tonne.