The team sent over to report the ground reality of this cotton belt remained so busy “extorting money from pesticide dealers” that it didn’t go to any farm in two days.
Joint agriculture director Sarabjit Singh Kandhari and agriculture development officers (ADOs) Vivek Shankar (plant protection) and Gurdyal Kumar (cash crop) used the assignment days to allegedly raise Rs 4.5 lakh from six pesticide dealers by threatening to reject their product samples. “They neither visited any cotton farm for the random crop-health survey nor collected any pesticide sample to check quality,” confirmed director of agriculture Jasbir Singh Bains.
They even failed to inform the local agriculture department that they were in Bathinda on July 20 and 21. “This was their first visit to the cotton belt, to report measures to control whitefly attack,” said Bains. “Once we have the detailed copy of the first-information report (FIR), we’ll look at what action to take.”
Last year, spurious pesticides helped whitefly pest ravage two-third of Malwa’s cotton crop. The loss was more than Rs 4,000 crore, forcing more than 10 farmers to commit suicide. The arrest of senior officers on Thursday night came when the pest is back and the agriculture department has a fight at hand.
Earlier, former agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu was arrested after pesticide dealer Vijay Kumar alleged to have paid him Rs 8 lakh for allowing the sale of spurious product.
3-day police custody for accused
The three agriculture department officials arrested on Thursday night from a hotel on the Barnala bypass in Bathinda were remanded in three days of police custody on Saturday. The court of judicial magistrate (first class) Kanwaljeet Singh has called them back on July 25. Police claim to have also seized the money that the officials extorted from some pesticide dealers.