Punjab’s suspended agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu, who was arrested and later released on bail in the cotton pesticides scam case, has been given a grace period of 15 days to file his reply by January 15 to the chargesheet issued to him in view of his arrest in the scam.
Confirming this at a press conference here, agriculture minister Tota Singh said, “No guilty officer will be spared, as the investigations into the case are underway. He (Mangal Sandhu) had sought some more time.”
Besides Sandhu, the two other senior officials of the agriculture department—joint directors Nirankar Singh and Satwant Singh Brar—had already filed their replies, the minister said.
The state has so far cancelled 98 licences and FIRs have been registered against 33 dealers, besides the three aforesaid officials, in wake of the scam that surfaced following the cotton crop failure on a large scale this kharif season.
Licences at stake
The minister said the state government is firm on not renewing the licences of the dealers who did not comply with the revised terms and conditions of being a graduate in agriculture sciences.
“The state has achieved a major success in getting the Fertilizers Control Order and Insecticides Control Order amended from the Centre, which means the fertiliser and insecticide licences would be granted only to qualified graduates in agriculture sciences,” he said.
In pursuance of this notification, the state’s agriculture department has decided to review all previous licences to weed out undeserving licensees, the minister said.
The two-year term of nearly half of such licences of some 12,000 retailers and 379 wholesale dealers would come to an end by January 2016, he said.
“This measure is not only expected to generate more employment for graduates in agriculture sciences, but is also likely to ensure supply of quality inputs,” he added.
Farmers suicide relief policy
The minister said the trend of farmers’ suicides in Punjab is a serious issue for the government, which had enhanced the compensation for such victim families from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh in July this year.
“The policy also aims to assist families in their complete rehabilitation by giving them assistance and treatment under various schemes of the departments of agriculture, horticulture, education, social security and health,” he said.
The health insurance of Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh insurance under accidental death were also the efforts of the state to benefit farmers, he added.