The Punjab government on Monday suspended Mangal Singh Sandhu, who was holding the officiating charge of director, agriculture, a day after he was arrested for his alleged role in the Rs 33-crore spurious pesticide scam, even as two other officers of the department were chargesheeted. Sandhu, who was taken to Bathinda from Chandigarh after his arrest on Sunday night, was produced in a court and remanded in three-day police custody.
The office of additional chief secretary (development) Suresh Kumar, incharge of the agriculture department, submitted an inquiry report to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal about the involvement of the agriculture directorate, particularly Sandhu.
The report, however, virtually gave the clean chit to agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh.
Deputy director, cotton extension, Parminder Singh and joint director (inputs) Balwinder Singh Sohal (who retired on September 30) have been chargesheeted as per the Punjab Civil Services (punishment and appeal) rules, 1970. Sohal would not get his pension and post-retirement benefits.
The inquiry report, which has been sent to the SIT, pointed out serious irregularities and violations in the purchase of pesticides by Sandhu, adding that the matter needed to be investigated.
The report observed that then director, agriculture, preferred to purchase a particular pesticide on his own, bypassing the agriculture minister and without adopting the e-tendering process. The CM has issued directions to the agriculture department to take action against the guilty.
After a spate of reports from the cotton belt that pesticides were not helping farmers fight the whitefly attack, the Punjab government had ordered an inquiry on August 21. An SIT was set up on September 9.
Meanwhile, Jathedar Tota Singh reportedly rushed to New Delhi on Monday to meet Shiromani Akali Dal president and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal.