Parliamentary committee’s recommendation a shot in the arm for Haryana IAS officer
In a rare act, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has come to whistleblower Ashok Khemka’s support, ordering a Central government inquiry into the pesticide scam that the Haryana IAS officer uncovered.
The committee also stood by the views of the IAS officer in another scam — in the purchase of seeds — again highlighted by Mr. Khemka. The Haryana government continues to battle against this.The Hindu accessed the 61st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The committee prima facie going with the allegations Mr. Khemka has made and Union government supported, has ordered that an inquiry be held to investigate “Propriety and legality of the state agriculture department of Haryana spending central money on RAXIL, a specific brand of Bayer Crop Science India, for unapproved treatment.”
It said the investigation must find out if there was any “Propriety and legality of the action of Bayer Crop Science India publishing recommendation of some state agricultural universities in its advertisements where RAXIL's effectiveness in treating Karnal Bunt diseases in wheat crop is claimed.” Its also asked for the investigation to ascertain why the Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University recommended Bayer's branded pesticide for Karnal Bunt diseases.”
The intervention of the PSC, comes as a shot in the arm for the beleaguered IAS officer who had been shunted out and charge-sheeted several times after he first raised alarm about land deals involving Mr. Robert Vadhra and subsequently about alleged scams in the Haryana Seeds Development Corporation Limited, where he had been shunted.
The matter has been embroiled in a case in the High Court ever since with the state government, having shunted Mr. Khemka out yet again, has defended its decisions on the controversial purchase of pesticides and seeds. Mr. Khemka has been charge-sheeted in several alleged violations of service rules by the State government.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee while reviewing the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana was petitioned by Mr. Khemka alleging in his plea that central government subsidies and funds had been embezzled and wasted by the Haryana state government officials in the purchase of seeds and illegal pesticides in connivance with private companies. The Standing Committee headed by CPI(M) Member of Parliament Basudev Acharia and having members from across the political spectrum from both houses, including Jyoti Mirdha and Satyavrat Chaturvedi and several other Parliament members of Congress called for evidence from the Union agriculture committee on his petition as well and the Union Agriculture Ministry came out in favour of Mr. Khemka in parts as well.
Based on the evidence gathered through the testimony, including responses that the Union Agriculture Ministry had sought from Haryana government, the standing committee took a final position in favour of Mr. Khemka.
Mr. Khemka, in his petition had alleged that the state government had misused Central government subsidies to illegally sell a Brand of pesticide to farmers which had not got the statutory clearance from the central government. He alleged that state government employees in collusion with Bayer Crop Science India had sold an unregistered pesticide mandating it for crop diseases that did not have clearance.
In another case he had alleged corruption in purchase of seeds at high cost without open and competitive tenders.
The standing committee in its report has noted, “Since pesticides are potentially hazardous chemicals and have significant bearing on human and environmental health, no lapse whatsoever in this regard can be condoned.” It has tasked the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee of the central government to conduct the inquiry.
The standing committee report would now force the government to also table an 'action taken report' based on the inquiry and keep the issue simmering for the Hooda government in the State.