Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Friday urged the Centre to depute a central team to conduct an impartial probe into an alleged seed scam in Punjab.
In a letter written to Union Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, she also urged him to forward the case to the CBI for a thorough probe into it.
Badal wrote to Tomar alleging that a massive seed scam had been detected in Punjab, which besides affecting the livelihood of farmers in the neighbouring states, could also have a pan-India ramification.
Advocating the need to safeguard farmers' interest, Badal, in a statement here, said "unscrupulous" elements playing with the lives of farmers should be stopped immediately.
She said the “scam” involved the sale of “spurious” PR-128 and PR-129 paddy seed varieties which were yet to be approved for commercial sale. She claimed Punjab Agricultural University had supplied a very small quantity of seeds to farmers in May at the rate of Rs 70 a kg but “unscrupulous elements” added "spurious" seeds to it sold its to farmers at the rate of Rs 200 per kg.
The Union minister said despite registration of an FIR by the state's Agriculture Department and seizure of “spurious” seeds of both paddy varieties from a seed store in Ludhiana on May 11 following a complaint by farmers, no follow up action was taken in the case.
She said the seed store owner gave a statement that the seeds had been supplied to it by a Gurdaspur-based supplier.
"Farmers are claiming that scamsters enjoy political patronage and that is why the police is not conducting further seizures of spurious seed or making any arrests in the case,” she said.
Badal said farmers felt the state police had developed cold feet in the case because the “scamsters” enjoyed “official and political patronage” of a minister in Punjab.
Notably, the Shiromani Akali Dal had claimed that a close associate of Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa was allegedly involved in supplying “spurious” paddy seeds, which were not approved for sale by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).
Randhawa, however, had on Wednesday denied the charge and accused Akalis of dragging his name into it, saying they were doing so to “gain cheap political mileage”.