The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a first information report (FIR) in alleged irregularities in the purchase of Raxil fungicide by the previous Congress government in Haryana. The FIR has been registered against unknown persons under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by the anti-corruption branch of the central agency here.
The state government had recently sent a reference to the Centre, requesting a CBI probe into the matter. While the BJP government in Haryana had on July 24 first referred the fungicide purchase matter to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for a probe without citing any justification, it made a fresh reference to the CBI in August after realising that the CVC reference would get rejected in the absence of any justification.
However, the reference sent to the CBI was neither drafted by the agriculture department nor the Haryana Seeds Development Corporation (HSDC) officials. An IAS officer posted on a low-key assignment is learnt to have volunteered his services for drafting the reference.
The reference sent to the CBI cast aspersions on the recommendations made by scientists of three agricultural universities regarding the efficacy of Raxil fungicide in their package of practices. The three institutions being put under the scanner "for making spurious claims that Raxil was effective in treating Karnal Bunt disease in wheat crop" are Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Hisar; Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; and Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar (Uttarakhand).
The state government also sought a probe into the role of Bayer Crop Science India, the manufacturer of Raxil, behind the claim made by some scientists in the three state agricultural universities that Raxil was effective in treating Karnal Bunt in wheat crop.
"Using a questionable recommendation of aforesaid fungicide use by a few scientists of the state agricultural universities included in the package of practice for rabi 2002… requires a thorough probe," said the reference.
Reference contrary to govt stand
However, the issues mentioned in the CBI reference are contrary to the deposition made by chief secretary DS Dhesi before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture. The CS, in his deposition in January, had said the state government introduced the fungicide for treatment of wheat seed and not for any particular disease and it has also not been used for any unapproved crop. He had said that Raxil was authorised by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) for treatment of wheat seed, adding that the wheat seed primarily has three diseases Loose Smut, Flag Smut and Karnal Bunt for which this fungicide is used. It was registered by the CIBRC for the first two diseases (Loose Smut and Flag Smut), which caused maximum damage to wheat produce and productivity, Dhesi had told the committee.
The reference sent recently by the Haryana govt to the CBI cast aspersions on the recommendations made by scientists of three agricultural universities regarding the efficacy of Raxil fungicide in their package of practices.
The three institutions being put under the scanner "for making spurious claims that Raxil was effective in treating Karnal Bunt disease in wheat crop" are Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Hisar; Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; and Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar (Uttarakhand).
Previous Congress regime in Haryana had decided to purchase Raxil fungicide on the recommendation of HAU after it was found to be most cost-effective and best of the four fungicides tested and recommended by HAU (other three were Thiram, Vitavax and Bavistin).
Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka had triggered a row when as Haryana Seeds Development Corporation managing director he alleged misrepresentation of facts in Raxil purchase.
NGO had filed writ petition in high court, seeking directions for probe by independent agency into fungicide purchase