Pesticide scam: AAP demands Tota Singh's resignation, legal action

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party on Thursday accused Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh of being involved in the supply of inferior quality pesticides to cotton farmers, some of whom committed suicide after losses to their crops, and demanded his sacking and criminal proceedings against him.

AAP alleged that the pesticide supplied to the farmers was not only of inferior quality, but it was also being sold by a "dubious" company following which cotton growers suffered losses due to white-fly disease inflicting their crops, leading to reports suicide by some of them in Punjab.

AAP's Punjab Co-Convenor Durgesh Pathak claimed that until last year Punjab State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd (Markfed), a NAFED-like body would buy pesticides and then supply it in retail market.

"This time the contract of Rs 33 crore was given to a company named 'Oberon' without any tendering process. The pesticide supplied by this company was not even approved and passed by Punjab Agriculture University, which is the usual practise.

"This year, the farmers had to spray pesticide 13-14 times unlike the unusual practise of 2-3 times. Each spray would cost the farmers Rs 3,300-3,500. As the pesticide was not showing any effect, testing was done by authorities during which it was revealed that it did not meet necessary standards, following which the police started investigating the case," Pathak said. He further added that during the police investigation the addresses given by the company were also found to be fake.

"This was done in connivance with the state agriculture minister Tota Singh and he should not only be sacked, but a criminal proceeding should also be initiated against him," Pathak said.

AAP leader and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann said the disease has affected farmers in the constituency of the ruling Badal family, which includes Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

"The farmers are demanding compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre while the state government was offering only 10 per cent of the what has been asked. If the state government does not yield to the demand then we have to resort to agitation," AAP leader Ashutosh said.

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