‘Seeds sold in polythene packets to hide fraud’
ANANTNAG: In what could emerge to be a massive and potentially life-threatening fraud, the agriculture department in this southern district has put expired seeds of vegetables on sale for farmers at its zonal offices.
An official said that top officials of the department had last month directed field staff posted across various zones of the district to ensure that the entire stock of the expired seeds was sold.
Sources said, on condition of anonymity, that in order to legalise the sale of the expired seeds, the officials earlier this year sent samples for analysis to the divisional seed certification office in Srinagar. The office returned a certificate on 27 March issued to the chief agriculture officer, declaring the seed healthy. The handwritten certificate also recommends the spraying of the seeds with pesticide to safeguard them against disease and that proper sanitation be employed.
“On the basis of the certificate, the chief agriculture officer convened a meeting of all the zonal-level officers and asked them to ensure the sale of the entire stock. Though some officials had argued that they could not convince farmers to purchase the seed, which expired in April 2016, but the CAO paid no heed to their concerns,” said an insider.
The chief agriculture officer, instead, directed the department’s officials to unpack the seeds and resell them in small packets of polythene. This reporter was able to purchase hybrid seeds of many vegetables in such small packs at many zonal offices. “Company-packed seeds are not available,” this reporter was told. “This seed is also hybrid. You can purchase it on our guarantee. The same hybrid packet we have given you at the rate of Rs 50 will cost Rs 400 in the original packing,” said the officials at one of the zonal offices of agriculture.
Kashmir Reader is in possession both of samples of the expired hybrid packets that have been put on sale at agriculture offices and the certificate issued by the seed certification office.
The department’s agriculture expert also expressed dismay over the department’s sale of expired seeds.
“Any hybrid has a viability of only three months. After three months, it loses vigour and is rendered almost useless. One wonders how the departmental officials can cheat the farmers by selling them the hybrid that expired a year ago,” said the expert pleading anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.
He also revealed that there is no laboratory in the Valley well-equipped enough to check the viability of the seed after its expiry.
“Such seed tests are done at sophisticated seed laboratories outside the state. But the Valley does not have one yet. The certificate seems to have been wangled to legalise an illegal act,” the expert said.
One agriculture department official admitted that they were cheating farmers but added that the department has been strictly directed to ensure that the entire stock is sold.
“One fails to understand how the top agriculture officials of the district can stoop so low. Either they want to be in the good books of higher-ups by showing them they have no liability or they are doing it for monetary benefits,” the official said.
Chief agriculture officer, Anantnag, Ajaz Ahmed Raina, denied any awareness of the matter Kashmir Reader raised before him and said that if seed was recently expired, the department would have it tested and would only stock of sell it on the basis of the test report.
“I don’t know what seeds you are talking about. You come to me along with those seed packs and we will sit together and see where and how it has happened,” Raina told Kashmir Reader.