The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a closure report in the preliminary enquiry (PE) registered to probe the alleged irregularities in the purchase of wheat seeds by Haryana Seeds Development Corporation (HSDC) from National Co-operative Consumer Federation (NCCF), Chandigarh, and National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation (NAFED), Ludhiana.
"The enquiry conducted has thus revealed that allegations of buying certified wheat seeds at exorbitant rates and thereby having caused loss to government exchequer does not stand substantiated,'' said the CBI note on the PE.
The PE was registered in 2013 by the anti-corruption branch of the central agency at Chandigarh on the basis of a written complaint by the then managing director of HSDC, Ashok Khemka, who had alleged that NCCF and NAFED supplied seeds at a higher rate to HSDC, causing wrongful loss to state exchequer.
CBI officials told HT said that the central agency could not detect any fraud in the matter during the preliminary enquiry. "The matter has been filed. However, we have conveyed certain policy measures in our report to the state government to ensure that emergent situations warranting urgent purchase of seeds due to unforeseen circumstances can be handled smoothly,'' said CBI officials.
Shortage of seeds
"Private seed producers filed two writ petitions in Punjab and Haryana high court against the decision of the Haryana government to ensure 100% wheat seeds treatment, which led to seed shortage and necessitated HSDC for arranging additional quantity of certified wheat seeds on urgent basis. It was reported that police was called on October 29, 2010 at Kaithal for controlling farmers who had thronged the HSDC outlet to purchase certified wheat seeds.
Enquiry has revealed that HSDC produced 2.12 lakh quintals of certified wheat seed of different varieties in 2010-11 rabi season. Out of this, about 1.25 lakh quintal seeds had already been sold out through HSDC outlets and other agencies like HAFED, HAIC, HLRDC. Hence, HSDC was left with only about 85,000 quintals of certified wheat seed,'' the CBI report said.
Why seeds bought from NCCF and NAFED
The CBI said it was in this background that a proposal was moved by HSDC to agriculture department for purchase of 1 lakh quintal of wheat seeds of different varieties for rabi 2010-11, which was approved by the then chief minister on October 31, 2010. However, the agriculture department specified that the wheat seeds were to be purchased from other seed corporations, government/co-operative agencies.
But in the eventuality of the same not being available with them, the HSDC could float short term tenders from private seed producers of Haryana. HSDC requested government seed agencies like State Farms Corporation of India, Punjab State Seed Corporation, Rajasthan State Seed Corporation, NAFED, NCCF, IFFCO, HAU, Uttarakhand Seeds and Tarai Development Corporation (US&TDC) to intimate about the availability of certified wheat seeds at competitive rates along with their terms and conditions on or before November 3, 2011. Responses were received only from NCCF, NAFED and US&TDC. The US&TDC quoted Rs 2,100 per quintal but did not agree to supply the seed at HSDC centres.
It also asked for 25% advance payment. Other government agencies like NCCF and NAFED quoted Rs 2,150 per quintal and Rs 2,180 per quintal respectively. After negotiations, orders were placed to NCCF and NAFED for supplying 90,000 and 10,000 quintals of seeds respectively at Rs 2,050 per quintal. The three private firms which supplied certified seeds to NCCF and NAFED were empanelled with the two government agencies. "Thus, they were not middlemen firms. It was also confirmed from a central government undertaking, National Seeds Corporation Ltd (NSCL) that their sale rate of certified seeds during October-November 2010 in Haryana was Rs 2,050 per quintal, the same as quoted by NCCF and NAFED, the CBI said.
Profit margins within limits
The CBI concluded in its closure report that margin of profits earned by firms cannot be considered grossly exorbitant as they were responsible for quality of supplies, distribution to various centres and also for advance payments to seed producers.
No complaints from farmers
In response to Khemka's allegation that seeds supplied were of sub-standard quality, untreated with Raxil fungicide and did not conform to laid down parameters, the CBI probe concluded that a pouch of Raxil fungicide was attached with each wheat seed bag at the time of delivery to farmers. "Thus, seed producers were not at fault and the certification of wheat seeds was not obtained fraudulently. No complaints were received from the farmers regarding the quality of certified wheat seed,'' the report said.