Staff Reporter

MLCs see nexus between officials, private seed firms

ComplaintsAll eligible farmers have not been coveredGovernment has bowed to seed suppliers' lobby

BANGALORE: Cutting across party lines, members of the Legislative Council on Tuesday asked the Government not to fix a ceiling on the quantity of seeds to be distributed at subsidised rates to small and marginal farmers.

Raising the issue during Question Hour, Arvind Limbavalli and Vimala Gowda of the BJP and M.P. Nadagouda of the JD(U) said the Government had deliberately desisted from bringing all eligible farmers under the programme.

Some Congress members alleged that the Government had bowed to the lobby of seed suppliers to the detriment of farmers and the exchequer.

Leader of the Opposition H.K. Patil and his party colleague V.S. Ugrappa, Ms. Gowda, Dr. Nadagouda and others said the Government should come out with details of the programme. They charged that farmers and the Government were being exploited because of a nexus between officials and private seed firms.

Making an attempt to clarify matters, Minister for Agriculture Bandeppa Kashempur said 75 per cent of the 22 lakh hectares held by small and marginal farmers was brought under the programme during the kharif season of 2006. The programme was planned in accordance with the policy on distribution of seeds at subsidised rates evolved by the previous government. The Government had, in its budget, allocated Rs. 42 crore for the programme. The previous Government could utilise only Rs. 28 crore out of the Rs. 52 crore allocated for the programme, he said.

On the alleged deception and irregularities in the purchase of seeds, Mr. Kashempur said that seven multinational companies Monsanto, Parry Monsanto, Proagro, Advanta, PHI Seeds, Syngenta and Cheron Pokpons had obtained licences to sell seeds at subsidised rates after participating in an open tender. The cost of seeds was fixed on the basis of the lowest rate quoted under each crop/ variety. The Government would take action if it received any complaints, he said.

He said the Government was aware about confusion and disturbances at some of its seed distribution centres.