Pesticide scam:Sandhu found guilty, suspended
Agriculture Director Mangal Singh Sandhu was today suspended after a preliminary probe in the pesticide scam found him guilty of “procedural lapses”. Gurdial Singh, Joint Director, Agriculrure, has been given charge of Director.
Held in bribery case
Sandhu was arrested last night by the Bathinda police in connection with another case of sale of spurious pesticides in the cotton belt of the state. A case under Sections 420 and 186 of the IPC has already been registered against him in Bathinda after the Special Investigation Team found his role in the sale of spurious insecticides meant to check whitefly attack on cotton crop.
Faces multiple charges
The second inquiry being conducted against him for buying Oberon pesticide has found him guilty on two counts. The inquiry into the purchase of 92,198 litres of Oberon by the officer has shown that he bought the pesticide from Bayer Crop Sciences by bypassing the mandatory tendering process. He is also held guilty of buying the pesticide from a dealer (Bayer Crop Sciences) and not the manufacturer of the pesticide (Jammu-based Saraswati Agro Chemicals India Pvt Ltd).
“The fact that the pesticide was bought from a dealer and not directly from the manufacturer leaves the scope of financial irregularities (Bayer Crop Sciences only markets this pesticide). The officials have exceeded their financial powers by buying the pesticide without following the laid rules,” says the preliminary inquiry report, submitted to the Chief Minister today.
Though fingers were being pointed at Agriculture Minister Tota Singh, the preliminary inquiry has said the minister had made a note on the file moved by Sandhu for the purchase of Oberon, saying that “action be taken on the purchase as per the rules and in public interest”. The report says Sandhu ignored the orders of the minister and bought the pesticide at his own level without seeking approval from the competent authority.
Two officials charge-sheeted
While the minister has got a clean chit, two other officers of the Agriculture Department — Deputy Director (Cotton extension) Parminder Singh and then joint director Agriculture Balwinder Singh Sohal — have also been issued a charge sheet under the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment and Appeals) Rules, 1970.
This inquiry was submitted by Special Secretary, Agriculture, Daljit Singh, to the Additional Chief Secretary Suresh Kumar. Kumar further submitted the report to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal this morning, who in turn has recommended that the preliminary inquiry report be submitted to the SIT, headed by ADGP IPS Sahota, which is already investigating the case of sale of spurious insecticides.
Pesticide bought at high rates
The inquiry has brought out how the order was placed with Bayer Crop on May 28 to buy 92,198 litres of the pesticide for Rs33 crore. The inquiry establishes that the pesticide was bought at higher rates (Rs3,557 per litre) as compared to its market price of Rs3,000 per litre. While half of this pesticide was supplied to the Agriculture Department in one litre packing, the remaining was supplied in half litre packing. The maximum amount of Oberon was supplied in Bathinda (15,000 litres) followed by Fazilka (10,500 litres), Mansa (9,200 litres), Muktsar (7,500 litres), Faridkot (1,500 litres) Sangrur (1,250 litres), Barnala (900 litres) and Moga (249 litres).
Paid price for challenging state's might?
Mangal Singh Sandhu had reportedly pointed fingers at Agriculture Minister Tota Singh and officials in the Chief Minister's office after his removal on September 17. He accused them of having knowledge of how the order for Oberon was placed. Sandhu approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court and subsequently got a stay on his removal on September 28. He was serving an extended term till April 30, 2016. His alleged role in allowing the sale of spurious pesticides that failed to contain the whitefly attack on cotton and for violating procedures to buy pesticide is being examined.
53 liquor bottles seized
Chandigarh: The UT police have confiscated 53 bottles of liquor from the residence of Agriculture Director Mangal Singh Sandhu who was arrested on Sunday in a corruption case. Inspector Ram Dayal, SHO, Sector 36 police station, said they would take a legal opinion on the matter before registering a case. A team of Punjab police has seized US and Canadian dollars apart from Indian currency. Inder Mohan Singh Bhatti, SSP, Bathinda, said Rs 4.4 lakh, jewellery worth Rs 4 lakh, 11,600 US dollars and 3,090 Canadian dollars were seized from Sandhu’s house. “We have seized the currency and the source of the money is being investigated,” the SSP said.