Under fire for his insensitive remarks on suicide by farmers, Haryana agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar's recommendation for a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) probe into the purchase of Raxil fungicide may backfire.
The CVC Act and guidelines regarding complaint handling policy say that the commission has jurisdiction over All-India service officers (IAS, IPS) serving with the central government and has no jurisdiction over the state government organisations.
Dhankar, on the other hand, took the argument that fungicide matter involved funds under the central scheme and the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture recommended necessary action in the matter.
In a major faux pas, the agriculture minister has bracketed together all the four fungicides, tested and recommended by Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), as having the same chemical- Tebuconazole - in his April 8 note while recommending a CVC probe. The facts, though, are contrary.
Agriculture officials pointed out that only Raxil contains Tebuconazole chemical while Vitavax contains Carboxin chemical and Bavistin contains Carbendazim chemical.
"The facts of the case reveal that a fungicide that contains Tebuconazole 2% DS chemical is registered by Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and is used for treatment of Loose/Flag Smut on wheat. Pesticides namely Raxil, Vitavax and Bavistin that contains Tebuconazole chemical is effective in the treatment of Loose/Flag Smut, but it is said not to be much effective against Karnal Bunt on wheat seed for which the same has been used by different companies," reads Dhankar's note.
Repeated calls made by HT to Dhankar to get his version were not returned.
SMALLER POUCH ARGUMENT
The minister also seems to have erred while questioning the purchase of smaller pouches. "The department purchased Raxil in smaller pouches containing 40 gm at an exorbitant rate of `53.72. Presumably, the chemical having same content would have been purchased by calling open tenders," he wrote.
Officials said that as per the Insecticides Acts and rules, repackaging of a fungicide is not permissible. "The smaller 40-gm pouches of Raxil were purchased as the dose recommended for treating the seed by HAU and Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal is 1-gm per kg seed. Thus, a 40-gram Raxil pouch duly registered by CIBRC is required for treating a 40-kg wheat bag. It is not possible to buy Tebuconazole in bulk and then repack it in smaller pouches,'' they said.
Moreover, while only 40-gm of Raxil 2 DS fungicide (`53.72) is recommended for 40 kg of seed, the recommended dose for Vitavax (`73) and Bavistin (`63) is 80 gm for 40kg wheat seed, thus not only raising the cost but putting the seed and soil to greater toxicity, officials said.
OFFICIALS HAVE CONTRARY VIEWS
The top two Agriculture officials - director general Ramesh Krishan and additional chief secretary Dhanpat Singh have contrary views on issue as is evident from the file notings. "So far there is no conclusive finding to the effect that irregularities have been committed in purchase of pesticide in use of central subsidy. There are no findings of any committee or any court where the matters are under consideration that any special dispensation have been made in favour of any particular company,'' wrote the DG, agriculture. The file also mentions a pending high court case and the issue being examined by an expert committee on the instructions of Parliamentary Committee. "It would be desirable to await the final report of the committee,'' wrote an official on the file.