Home Dehradun CBI conducts raids in Doon, Himachal over planting material scam by Horticulture...

CBI conducts raids in Doon, Himachal over planting material scam by Horticulture Dept

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 13 Jun: As Garhwal Post had pointed out in a recent report, all is not well in the State Horticulture Department. Several scams have taken place, particularly related to procurement of spurious planting material (fruit trees) and generation of fake bills to the tune of crores of rupees.

It may be recalled that the then Horticulture Director, Dr Harminder Singh Baweja, had been suspended and sent to his parent department in Himachal Pradesh by the Uttarakhand Government. In this connection, a case is also being heard by the Uttarakhand High Court. In a fresh development, several teams of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have conducted raids in relation with this much talked about Horticulture scam of Uttarakhand in Dehradun, in Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh.

Some of the raids were conducted today in Dehradun and sources claimed that interrogation of certain employees of Uttarakhand Horticulture Department took place at the CBI State Office in Vasant Vihar here. Sources claimed that the CBI is interrogating three employees in the Horticulture scam case, and they have not ruled out the possibility of arrest of one or more of those being interrogated. In fact, some sources claimed that these employees may be possibly arrested by late evening today.

It may be recalled that that the CBI had taken over the investigation of this alleged scam in October last year on the orders of the Uttarakhand High Court. However, so far, the CBI had not made any significant progress in its investigations. Last year, the CBI had obtained documents related to this investigation from the CB-CID. The CBI started the investigation by registering a PE (Preliminary Investigation) though, so far, not much progress has been seen.

Last year, once this alleged scam surfaced, the government had suspended the then Director, Horticulture Department, Dr Harminder Singh Baweja, who was serving in Uttarakhand on deputation. Sources in the state horticulture department and the CBI indicated that Baweja, who has since gone back to Himachal and joined his parent department, Dr YS Parmar Horticulture University in Solan, is also the on radar may also be soon interrogated.

It may also be recalled that Almora resident and social activist Deepak Kargeti along with Gopal Upreti and some others had filed a PIL last year before the Uttarakhand High Court alleging a scam in the Horticulture Department. It has been claimed in the petitions that a scam of crores of rupees has been done in the Horticulture Department, regarding purchase of fruit plants. Even the local BJP MLA from Purola (Durgeshwar Lal) had also released a video accusing Baweja of irregularities regarding procurement of planting material for distribution to farmers in the district.

It is alleged that the Horticulture Department had issued a work order in the course of a single day and allegedly the plants were shown in the records to have been procured from a private nursery from Jammu & Kashmir on the same day. The payment against this “procurement” was also made quickly. Interestingly, another fact in the case is that this nursery was listed in the panel of the state horticulture department and granted licence to sell plants in Uttarakhand also on the same day when the purchase order was issued and the plants allegedly procured. The nursery in question here is M/s Barkat Agro. The bills worth crores of rupees were raised by this nursery and settled within a short time by the department without the signature of the departmental accounts officer. These incidents naturally raised suspicion of possible large-scale irregularity and on this basis, as evident from the arguments made out in the PIL, the High Court had ordered an investigation.

Initially, when this scam came to light, the government had ordered a CB-CID inquiry into the case but the petitioners had in their PIL expressed dissatisfaction with the investigation. The High Court then ordered a CBI inquiry into this alleged scam.  After this scam emerged, charge as Director of the Horticulture Department has been handed to a bureaucrat despite some opposition from within the department.

It may be recalled that such incidents not only cause direct loss of government funds but also result in loss to the farmers who purchase the planting material from the government assuming the same to be genuine. After a few years of planting and working hard to save and nurture the plants, they realise that they have been cheated.