Based on a tip-off from a freelance photographer, the district administration found a large quantity of expensive organic pesticides and fertilizers, estimated to be worth several lakh rupees, dumped in a dry well at the Kadri Park here on Thursday.
The farm inputs, some costing as much as Rs. 725 for a 250 ml bottle, were made from substances such as fish oil and neem and were supposed to have been distributed free of cost among farmers in the district by the Horticulture Department. Some of these bottles were also imported from the U.S. While most of the farm inputs had crossed their “expiry date”, several of them were still usable.
“I got an anonymous call on Thursday morning stating that a truckload of fertilizers had been secretly dumped in the well late the previous night,” the photographer told The Hindu.
When The Hindu reached the spot at noon, the fertilizer bottles could not be seen clearly at the bottom of the well, as they had been covered by grass. Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj, who visited the site in the evening, ordered the Fire Services personnel to get to the bottom of the well.
The fire personnel cleared the top dressing of grass to come out with what officials believed to be, over a tonne of farm inputs packed in jute sacks.
When Mr. Ponnuraj questioned H.N. Hema, Deputy Director of Horticulture Department, she initially claimed to have no knowledge of the incident. She later told Mr. Ponnuraj that she had asked some subordinates to dispose of the material since they had crossed the expiry date. But, when Mr. Ponnuraj pointed out that several bottles were still usable, she did not respond.
Mr. Ponnuraj told presspersons that organic farm inputs were being promoted by the Government but there were few takers for it. “In this case, however, it appears that despite the low demand, the department has gone on to purchase large quantities of the material,” he said.
Expressing suspicion that there was foul play, he said that the stuff could have been dumped to make way for fresh procurement. “I can still understand old and unusable stock being dumped, but a detailed enquiry will reveal why fresh stocks were also discarded,” he said.
However, he stressed that procurements were not done only by executives and that a Zilla Panchayat Standing Committee, headed by an elected representative, had to approve the purchase. “But, the question that still remains is, why purchase fertilizers and pesticides if there is no demand?” Mr. Ponnuraj asked.
Mr. Ponnuraj later visited the warehouse of the Horticulture Department, where he did not find the required stock registers. He sealed the three warehouses of the department and seized their books of accounts. “We expect the results of the preliminary enquiry report in two days,” he said.