A day after the Punjab government constituted a high-level inquiry committee to look into the complaints of the sale of spurious pesticides, the agriculture department on Thursday started mass sampling of pesticides from retail stores, wholesalers and pesticide suppliers across the state.
The four-member panel has been constituted under the supervision of Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota, director, bureau of investigation.
The complaints of substandard quality of pesticides started pouring in after the farmers failed to control the attack of whitefly on cotton even after repeated sprays of pesticides, provided by the government at subsidised rates.
One of the senior agriculture officials said department heads of all the districts have been asked to collect samples from each and every store to check their quality.
"The results of the samples will be submitted to the inquiry panel, which will further investigate the matter in detail," an official said. Ironically, the government also came out of slumber after most of the cotton crop had already been severely damaged in the region, resulting in huge losses to farmers.
It should be mentioned that the agriculture department, under supervision of additional chief secretary (agriculture) Suresh Kumar, has already been inquiring into the procedure and the norms followed at the time of the purchase of these insecticides, besides going through its quality at the time of purchase.
Nearly 4.5 lakh hectare land is under cotton across the state, more than 75% of which is in Bathinda, Muktsar, Fazilka and Ferozepur districts. The government commenced a special girdawari from September 7 to assess the damage to decide compensation.
Joint director (agriculture) Satwant Singh Brar said the process of sampling has been initiated after the committee has been set. However, he refused to divulge more details.
The probe team comprises BK Bawa, inspector general of police, Bathinda zone, JK Jain, inspector general (intelligence & counter intelligence) and G Nageshwar Rao, inspector general (crime).
Two ADO's suspened
The agriculture department has already suspended two agriculture development officers (ADOs) following their failure to check the sale of spurious pesticides at Raman Mandi.
The action against ADO Surinder Kumar and Bharat Bhushan was taken on the recommendations of the inquiry report of joint director Satwant Singh Brar, after the seizure of fake pesticides from three godowns in the area. It should be mentioned that out of the 32 samples collected last week, 30 samples were found adulterated and unfit for use.