Former director of agriculture Mangal Singh Sandhu was only a small cog in the large wheel of corruption in the state government, state leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar said in Ferozepur on Tuesday, adding that “his involvement in the pesticide scam is established but people should also know his patrons”.
“They should know who helped him embezzle way beyond what his position permitted,” Jakhar said, while addressing farmers who had gathered from a state-level protest at Abohar in Fazilka district on Tuesday. The state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader said that the shadow of Rs 33-crore pesticide scam now had reached the chief minister’s office and agriculture minister Tota Singh, since Sandhu claimed that both were in the loop about the bulk purchase of Oberon pesticide from Bayer Crop Science to fight whitefly attack on cotton crop.
“Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal needs to clarify how a director not empowered to make any purchase exceeding Rs 10 lakh without calling tenders can sign a Rs 33-crore deal,” said Jakhar. “The CM should clarify who approved the payment and what is the role of the chief secretary and the financial commissioner (development) in this,” he added.
Fearing danger to Mangal’s life, Jakhar demanded adequate security for him, saying: “The bigwigs in the state regime might eliminate him to save themselves.” Condemning the Punjab Agricultural University vice-chancellor for his reported statements relating to the agrarian crisis, he said that PAU scientists, who were paid Rs 110 crore a year in salary, had failed to develop a certified seed that could resist whitefly attack. The PAU had also harmed the interests of farmers by transferring Cotton Research Station land to develop a stadium in Bathinda, he said.
The state CLP leader said the state treasury had no money to provide the Scheduled Caste, disabled and minority community students with scholarships but quick to pay Rs 33 crore for a shady deal.
Muktsar legislator Karan Kaur Brar and former Congress legislators Dr Mohinder Rinwa Fazilka and Nathu Ram Malout also accused the state government of ruining agricultural economy by pursuing “irrational policies”.
‘CM failed to convince PM’
“In four decades, we had never found a farmer in so much distress,” said Brar, blaming the Abohar circle irrigation officials for the plight of farmers in tailend villages.
The CM had failed to convince the Prime Minister that Punjab farmers deserve substantial assistance, the Congress leaders said, before demanding compensation for all cotton farmers and farm labourers.