Agri ministers at loggerheads over purchase of seeds

Wheat seeds bought for over Rs 58 crore: Both write to CM, questioning the other's 'role'

Anand Singh, Agriculture Minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government, and his minister of state Rajeev Kumar Singh are at loggerheads over the purchase of wheat seeds, worth over Rs 58 crore, which was made in October last year for distribution to farmers.

In letters written to the chief minister, the two ministers have questioned each other's action and motives.

While the junior minister has alleged rampant corruption in the purchase of seeds, the senior minister has reportedly told the CM that the purchases were in perfect order and also complained that his junior placed his personal interest above government policy.

In his letter to the CM, Rajeev Kumar said that the seeds were purchased by the department at high rates from certain firms, while the same seeds at much cheaper rates were available from National Agriculture Cooperative Federation of India (NAFED). Obviously, he was targetting Anand Singh who was invovled in the decision making.

On his part, Anand Singh reportedly told the chief minister that the junior minister was misinformed, and the purchases were made according to the official policy that seeds should be bought only from government firms which actually produced seeds.

The Agriculture Department purchases various seeds for supplying to farmers. The supply is managed through UP Seeds Development Corporation (UPSDC) and the seed-supplying companies are selected by a committee, which is headed by Agriculture Production Commissioner Alok Ranjan.

In October last year, 9 lakh quintal of wheat seed was bought, 6.60 lakh quintal from the state farms owned by the Department of Agriculture and 2.40 lakh quintal from Haryana Seeds Development Corporation. The purchases were worth about Rs 58 crore.

Sources said that the junior minister contacted Mukesh Gautam, managing director of UPSDC, and asked him to make the purchase from NAFED. When this did not happen, he had made a complaint to the APC, levelling certain allegations against Gautam. But the department went ahead and made the purchases from the selected firms.

Rajeev Kumar admitted that he had written to the chief minister on October 26 last year. "But I had never mentioned the name of cabinet minister and not even of any officer. I am a minister of state and I inform the CM about developments in the department through letters," he said.

Anand Singh, who was in Delhi, said he would talk about the matter after returning to Lucknow. But sources said he had written a letter to Akhilesh, questioning his junior's actions.

However, Alok Ranjan said that the purchases were made in a fair manner. "It was decided earlier that government bodies producing seeds will be considered for making supply. No private or other body will be considered," he explained. As for the junior minister's allegations, he said the UPSDC had been asked to clarify.

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