The vigilance bureau registered a first-information report (FIR) against three agriculture department officers and their two distribution agents from Phillaur on Monday here in the Doaba scam of selling spurious pesticides to farmers.
On October 1, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had ordered a vigilance inquiry based on HT report “Another pesticide ‘scam’ leaves farmers rattled”. Block agriculture officer Ranjit Singh is prime accused, while agriculture assistants Dilpreet Singh and Anwar Ali (all posted at Phillaur at the time of scam); stockist Surinder Pal Singh and distribution assistant Bhupinder Singh have also been booked under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by government employee), 420 (fraud), 465 (punishment for forgery), 467 (forging documents), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using fraud documents as genuine), and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); Sections 13 (1) (d) (criminal misconduct by public servant) and 13 (2) (punishment for criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention to Corruption Act; and Section 7 (penalties) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
After registration of the case in the morning, the vigilance bureau team has arrested four accused — Dilpreet, Anwar, Surinder and Bhupinder — while alleged kingpin Ranjit, who as block-level officer (BLO) allegedly sold spurious pesticides to farmers, has failed to join investigation and is missing even from his office. “Four police teams are after him. Once he is caught, we hope to expose the manufacturers involved,” said Jalandhar senior superintendent of police (vigilance) Satinder Singh.
The vigilance inquiry has authenticated what the HT reported — that an unapproved pesticide, Cartrap hydrochloride, used for controlling stem borer, leaf folder and whorf maggot diseases of paddy crop, was sold to farmers under the directions of Ranjit. Its brand name, Vikrant, belongs to Apple Crop Sciences, an Ahmedabad-based Gujarat company the head office of which has denied manufacturing any such product.
Another chemical, Propiconazole, was sold to farmers under brand name Super Shine for Rs 1,020 per 5 litres. “All these pesticides are banned in Punjab, and the government has never ever recommended them for sale in the state,” said the vigilance SSP, adding: “The second company, Kerala Pesticide, in the name of which other pesticides were sold, does not even exist. Ranjit sold all these pesticides illegally to farmers.”
Sale of spurious pesticides rampant
The vigilance bureau claimed in a press statement that the sale of spurious pesticides was rampant in the Doaba region for the past many years, since farmers claim they have for long been buying the chemicals from prime accused Ranjit Singh.
The bureau stated that Ranjit and two other officers used to advise farmers to procure the pesticides, saying the state government recommended it and subsidised its price. “Ranjit would collect money from this business in the Phillaur agriculture office, while the pesticides were delivered from Surinder’s shop,” said vigilance bureau SSP Satinder Singh.
“After the scam came to light, the pesticides stored at Surinder’s shop were shifted to the house of Bhupinder Singh. Bhupinder has accepted that Ranjit got him to dump these packets by the Sutlej river,” the officer added.