His impetuosity has often landed him in avoidable controversies, the latest being his Tuesday’s remark on farmers committing suicides. But that’s not all for Haryana agriculture minister Om Parkash Dhankar.
His recommendation to the state government for referring the matter of alleged irregularities in the purchase of Raxil fungicide to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), a rather politically expedient move than a prudent administrative decision, has the potential of going wrong. Dhankar did not reply to calls and text messages sent to him for comments.
Agri officials not in loop
Dhankar, who as agriculture minister made a commitment on the floor of Haryana assembly during the budget session to get the Raxil fungicide purchase by the previous Congress government probed, went ahead with the recommendation for a CVC probe without even keeping the top officers of the agriculture department, including the additional chief secretary and director general in the loop. Sources said Dhankar himself penned a note on the agriculture department file, recommending a CVC probe. “Probably it is his urge to steal a march over his colleagues or pressure to keep his word which goaded this recommendation,’’ an official said.
Matter subjudice; also before expert committee
The decision for a CVC probe was taken despite the fact that matter is pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and is being examined by an expert committee constituted by Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) on the instructions of Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and was earlier rejected by the CVC. Since the HC case is listed for May 7, the state government will now ask advocate general to file an affidavit stating the CVC probe decision and seek HC’s approval.
Generic fungicides not approved by HAU
The minister also seems to have erred while saying had the previous government purchased the generic Tebuconazole fungicide which was much cheaper at Rs 300 per kilogram as compared to Rs1,350 per kilogram for branded Raxil fungicide, about Rs 80 crore could have been saved.
Agriculture department officials said a generic fungicide cannot be purchased for seed treatment unless it has been tested for efficacy and toxicity by Haryana Agricultural University (HAU). “We follow the recommendations of HAU with regards to fungicides. According to HAU’s package of practices for 2003, only four fungicides were recommended to the department for the treatment of wheat seed against three fungal diseases. They are Thiram for Karnal bunt only, Bavistin for Loose smut and Flag smut, Vitavax for Loose smut and Flag smut and Raxil 2DS for Loose smut, Flag smut and Karnal bunt.
Officials said the decision to introduce Raxil for treatment of certified wheat seed was taken in October 2010 meeting headed by the then chief minister, Bhupinder singh Hooda on the basis of expert advice of the HAU. “Among the four HAU recommended fungicides, only Raxil was found effective against all three diseases affecting wheat crop. It was also found to be the most cost effective,” officials said.