Mahabeej director booked for not acting against seed companies

Mumbai: After being pulled up by the Bombay High Court for their slow pace in acting against the companies that sold defective seeds to farmers, the authorities in Aurangabad registered two FIRs against the director and officials of the Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Ltd (MSSCL), popularly known as Mahabeej.

The MSSDCL or the Mahabeej is primarily engaged in production, processing and marketing of seeds of more than 50 crops and 250 varieties and hybrids in almost all categories.

Now, the authorities have booked Mahabeej's director Eknath Dawale, an IAS officer, for not acting against the vendors and companies selling defective seeds to farmers.

The action comes after a bench led by Justice Tanaji Nalawade of the Aurangabad seat of the HC had ordered the authorities to act against all the persons including public servants, who have failed to ensure that proper seeds are supplied to the farmers to carry out their farming.

The bench had taken up a suo motu criminal PIL after noting the plight of farmers, who often end up committing suicide as their seeds do not germinate.

In an earlier hearing, the bench had noted that the authorities including the Mahabeej had received over 22,000 complaints from farmers but despite this, only 23 FIRs were lodged against various persons including two seed companies. The bench had then slammed the authorities for their slow pace and had observed that there is all possibility of public servants conniving with seed companies and that was the reason that very few FIRs were registered, the judges had then opined.

During a hearing that took place recently, a bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Mukund Sewlikar was told that at least 54 FIRs have been registered against various seed companies.

The bench was further told that one crime is registered against Dawale and another has been lodged against the corporation's officials.

"In the past also there were thousands of such complaints and this court had expressed that it may take action against those officers who did not act at the relevant occasion. If some officers are avoiding taking action, at present, this Court may pass specific orders against them to be booked under relevant laws," Justice Nalawade said.

Meanwhile, the bench discharged the divisional joint director (agricultural department), who was ordered to either remain present in the court or to face arrest. The bench had issued the threat as there were allegations against the official of attempting to protect faulty seed companies and to blame farmers for the issue of seeds not germinating.

However, in the last hearing, the official appeared before the judges told them that he has started taking swift action against the faulty companies. "The official is discharged as the submission was made that they are moving fast and are taking action," Justice Nalawade said while adjourning the case.

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