Gross irregularities in Onion seed procurement comes to fore

Bhubaneswar: A major scam has been traced in the procurement of Onion seeds in State. Odisha Television has got evidence on gross irregularities in tendering and procurement of Onion Seeds, which could arguably be linked to the misery which the farmers and consumers of the State have suffered alike.

These lapses have come to fore following the investigation report of the State Agriculture department on the irregularities in tender fixing for seed procurement. The report has pointed out lapses on many counts in the tendering process. However, interestingly the State agriculture department is advocating payment of pending dues to the company which is alleged to have been a beneficiary of such lapses and supplied substandard seeds.

Notably, West Bengal Hybrid Seeds & Bio Tech Private Limited supplied seeds through Odisha State Seeds Corporation Ltd (OSSCL) for Onion cultivation in state. However, there were no yields from these seeds which were used across the State. Harried farmers also complained the seed corporation and the Agriculture department regarding the same.

“We bought the seeds as they were cheap and also invested a lot in cultivation. However, there was no produce,” said a dejected farmer Dayanidhi Hota.

“The seeds supplied are not of the same description as we were told. We will approach the authorities and demand compensation for the farmers who have lost their crops due to these sub-standard seeds,” said another farmer Samar Singh.

After receiving complaints, the Agriculture department ordered a probe into the tendering process. The investigation report clearly stated that there have been lapses in as many as six accounts. Startlingly, though the tender was called for a particular variety of seeds, the ones supplied were of sub-standard quality, the report highlights.

Citing other discrepancies, the report has clearly concluded that the tendering process by OSSCL is not transparent, efficient and fair adding that the corporation showed no equitable treatment to the farmers.
Based on the findings of the report, the Board of Directors of OSSCL recommended action against the errant authorities. Moreover, the board also recommended further probe into the matter by the Vigilance department.

After such irregularities were found out, the pending payment of Rs 5.9 crore due to West Bengal Hybrid Seeds & Bio Tech Private Limited was withheld. However, in October 15, the Agriculture department wrote to OSSCL stating that the corporation will be held responsible for non-payment of dues to the company. According to sources, the Agriculture department has sent letters repeatedly regarding the same.

“The corporation is an government undertaking and we are bound to follow orders given by it,” said
Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy said “I have no information about the complaints being raised. As per my knowledge, a company supplied the seeds which were certified and the State government released the funds for payment to the concerned company. However, OSSCL has recommended further probe of the matter by Vigilance department.”

However, no reactions on the matter could be obtained from West Bengal Hybrid Seeds & Bio Tech Private Limited.
Meanwhile, the High Court, hearing the case, has ordered appointment of an arbitrator.