Punjab Agriculture Department supplied inferior gypsum, probe demanded - ECAS Punjab

Punjab Agriculture Department supplied inferior gypsum, probe demanded

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Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27

Substandard gypsum (lower proportion of calcium sulphate) has been supplied to the Agriculture Department. This happened even after the government had managed to break the monopoly, roped in three suppliers and bought the gypsum at almost half the price than previous year.

Till date, only 3,000 metric tonnes of gypsum has been supplied. The state had placed an order to procure 25,000 metric tonnes of gypsum. A sum of Rs 5 crore had been advanced to the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) in March.

Of 120 samples of the gypsum tested so far, 70 samples have failed as they had less than 70 per cent calcium sulphate. Most samples reportedly had 62 per cent to 64 per cent calcium sulphate. In some cases, it was as low as 40 per cent, said Sutantar Kumar Airi, Director, Agriculture.

As a result, the state government has stopped all payments to the three suppliers. Further consignments of gypsum have been stopped.

The PAIC officials said last year, gypsum was procured for Rs 6,700 per metric tonnes and there was only one supplier. "In order to break the monopoly, we selected three bidders to supply the material at Rs 3,700 per metric tonnes," said a senior PAIC official.

Till last year, gypsum was checked at the point of source, but this year onwards, we made it mandatory to check each consignment of gypsum, the PAIC official said.

"As the material started arriving, random sampling was done by the Agriculture Department and the PAIC. We found the material substandard. We have not released any payment to the suppliers," said Manjit Singh Brar, Managing Director, PAIC.

He said they have asked the gypsum (with less than prescribed calcium sulphate limit) to be distributed free of cost to farmers.

Gypsum is a source of calcium and sulphur. It improves acid soils and treats aluminium toxicity. Besides it improves soil structure, water infiltration and reduces run off and erosion of soil. Interestingly, it is used more in Amritsar, Barnala, Patiala and Sangrur, but it is required before sowing paddy.

SACK OFFICIAL: SAD

The SAD on Monday asked CM Capt Amarinder Singh to sack Joginder Singh Mann, chairman, Punjab Agro Corporation, and sought a probe into the gypsum scam. Former minister Sikandar Singh Maluka said the CM should get a case registered for supplying substandard gypsum at exorbitant rates and stop further payment.



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