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Saturday, July 04, 2020

Punjab ‘paddy seed scam’: Seed store owner held after samples fail quality test; licence cancelled

The store was raided on May 11 following the complaint from a Moga-based farmer who had alleged that seeds of new paddy varieties PR 128 and PR 129 were being sold here at inflated rates of Rs 200-250 per kg.

By: Express News Service | Ludhiana | Updated: June 1, 2020 3:27:39 pm
ludhiana police, ludhiana police arrest, ludhiana peed paddy scamludhiana Brar Seed Store, Brar Seed Store owner arrested, fake seeds, Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab State Seed Laboratory, indian express news The police said that the store was sealed and their seed sale licence has been cancelled. (Representational Photo)

The Ludhiana police Sunday arrested the owner of Brar Seed Store, located opposite gate number 1 of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), after 10 of 11 paddy seed samples confiscated from the shop during a raid by agriculture department on May 11, failed the purity and germination test as per the report from the Punjab State Seed Laboratory.

The store was raided on May 11 following the complaint from a Moga-based farmer who had alleged that seeds of new paddy varieties PR 128 and PR 129 were being sold here at inflated rates of Rs 200-250 per kg. Both new varieties have been officially developed by PAU and the varsity has denied providing ‘source seed’ to any private firm yet for multiplication, as both varieties are yet to be notified by the central committee for commercial sale. PAU had sold small quantities of Truthfully Labelled (TL) seeds of both varieties for first time this season to farmers at the rate of Rs 70/kg.

On Sunday, the police arrested Harwinder Singh alias Kaka Brar (56), owner of the store. The police said that the store was sealed and their seed sale licence has been cancelled. Initially, the police had registered an FIR at division number 5 police station against Hardyal Singh, father of Harwinder Singh.

The police said that both father-son were running business collectively but for some time, Hardyal had been keeping unwell and Harwinder had been handling the entire business.

Ludhiana DCP (law and order) Ashwani Kapoor, who heads the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted in the case, said, “Harwinder Singh was looking after the store and entire business currently. He has been arrested after the seed samples confiscated from the store failed quality test and they were found to be spurious.”

Asked about the action against Gurdaspur-based Karnal Agri Seeds which, according to the FIR, supplied PR 128 and PR 129 seeds to the store, the DCP said, “Further details about the supplier are being probed. We have made first arrest on the basis of seed samples failing quality test.”

Ludhiana chief agriculture officer Narinder Singh Benipal said that the seed sale and purchase licence of the owners has been cancelled. “We have cancelled the seed sale and purchase licence which was issued to Brar Seed Store.”

The police said that the initial investigations show that Brar was using the names (PR 128 and PR 129) of the new paddy varieties developed by the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) to cheat the farmers by selling spurious seeds as branded ones. Incidentally, PAU is yet to commercially produce the seeds, which have not been supplied to any private company.

As per the FIR that has been registered by the Ludhiana police at division number 5 police station on May 11, Hardyal Singh was booked under sections 2,3,7 of the Essential Commodities Act, Section 3 of Seeds (Control) Order, 1983 and Section 420 of the IPC, on the complaint of Ludhiana chief agricultural officer.

The FIR says that the store was raided after a farmer from Maheshri village of Moga complained that seeds of PAU varieties were being sold there at inflated rates. During the checking, 185 bags of 30-kg packing, 27 bags of 5-kg packing and 67 bags of 10-kg packing of PR 128 were recovered from the store.

Similarly, 30 bags of 5-kg packing and 39 bags of 10-kg packing of PR 129 were also recovered from the store.

The FIR further says that the store prima facie got the supply of these seeds from M/S Karnal Agri Seeds, Varoke village, Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur district as copies of the bills issued by the company were recovered from the store. Bills dated March 3 this year were recovered which said that 100 quintal seeds of PR 128 and PR 129 each was supplied to the store at the rate of Rs 8,000 per quintal. “It is a matter of probe that from where Karnal Agri Seeds procured source seed of PAU varieties and how they multiplied it,” the FIR adds.

Meanwhile, as per the FIR, during the checking of godown of Brar Seed Store, 128 bags of 8-kg packing of PR 129 were also recovered.

Sources in Ludhiana agriculture department said that another private seed store at Jagraon has been found selling spurious seeds of PAU varieties PR 128 and PR 129 and FIR is likely to be registered soon.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has alleged that it is a ‘multi-crore seed scam’ and that owner of Karnal Agri Seeds is related to Congress minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. The minister has denied the allegations.

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