HT: The Punjab government is being blamed for having failed to help farmers who were fighting to save cotton crop from whitefly.
Tota Singh: We tried out best but the pest attack came all of a sudden like an epidemic. There is no pesticide to control whitefly. The available solutions kill only the larvae. As the adult pest can't be killed, it keeps producing larvae to add to the damages. We have paid Rs 10 crore in compensation to the farmers who had to plough their cotton fields.
HT: The farmers were supplied with spurious pesticides, so it failed to check the pest attack.
We supplied only 10% of the total pesticide that the farmers used, and it was effective. I can't comment about the pesticides the farmers had bought from outside sources. It's less of actual problem and more of politicisation by the opposition.
HT: There are allegations that pesticide manufacturers paid kickbacks and your previous agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu is an alleged beneficiary. Your name has also been dragged into the controversy.
We have transferred Sandhu pending an inquiry report, which is expected in a few days. I have not taken a single penny from anyone. And kickbacks are a misnomer. Reputed pesticide companies don't pay bribes.