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Vigilance probe ordered into Punjab pesticide scam

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Chandigarh: Punjab on Thursday ordered a vigilance probe into the multi-crore rupee pesticide scam in the state which has led to losses running into millions of rupees to cotton-growing farmers in the state.

The move came after the state government defended the issue for the past few days.

“Taking cognizance of the news report regarding another pesticide scam in the Phillaur region of Jalandhar district, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today ordered an enquiry to get at the bottom of the case,” a spokesman of the Chief Minister’s Office said on Thursday.

Badal asked the DGP (Vigilance) to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit its report within a month.

The Punjab government has been under fire from various quarters over the pesticide purchase mess which led to loss of hundreds of crore of rupees for the state’s cotton farmers, mostly in the Malwa belt of south-west Punjab.

Badal on Monday announced a compensation of Rs 600 crore to the farmers affected by ‘white fly’ attack which has destroyed cotton crop in almost 60 percent area under cotton cultivation.

Farmers are up in arms against the state government for its failure to help them and for providing poor quality pesticides. The opposition has demanded a judicial probe into the pesticide purchase scam.

A war of words over the pesticide scam in Punjab escalated on Monday as Agriculture Minister Tota Singh blamed a senior agriculture department official for the procurement of spurious pesticide to deal with white fly pest attack on the cotton crop in the state.

After agriculture department director Mangal Singh Sandhu’s statement in a section of the media that put the blame on Tota Singh and even pointed to Chief Minister Badal’s involvement in decision-making on purchase of the pesticide, the minister on Monday said the officer was muddling the facts to save his own skin.

The state government removed Sandhu as agriculture director on September 17. Sandhu’s shifting was, however, put on hold by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday.

The opposition Congress on Monday demanded a judicial probe into the pesticide scam and sought an immediate resignation of the agriculture minister.

(IANS)

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