Mumbai News

Bombay HC takes suo motu note of soyabean germination issue – The Indian Express

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |

Published: June 28, 2020 3:40:12 am

The court has asked the concerned department to file details of complaints received at tehsil level, action taken under the Seed Act. (File)

In a significant order, the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court has taken sou motu note of failure of seed germination reported by soyabean farmers from various parts of the state. A two-judge bench of Justice T V Nalawade and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni has ordered the state Agriculture Department to file a report in the matter.

Soyabean farmers in Maharashtra have been put in a fix after the seeds they sowed failed to germinate. An important cash crop, the oilseed is taken over 40-41 lakh hectares of area in the state, mostly in the districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. After receiving good returns from the oilseed last season, farmers were being bullish about the crop this year too. Early onset of monsoon had also resulted in accelerated sowing.

According to officials in the Agriculture Department, the germination failure could be attributed to three major reasons: deep sowing, insufficient soil moisture, and inferior seed quality. The agriculture commissionerate had blamed a certain variety of seeds supplied by Mahabeej – the government-owned seed corporation – for the failure to germinate. The corporation has initiated the process of replacing seeds in some places. The Indian Express had reported the issue on June 23.

Citing media reports, the bench observed that seed failure reports coming from various districts had prompted them to step in and initiate a sou motu public interest litigation (PIL) so that action should be taken against traders and companies who put bogus seeds in the market. The court was critical of the agriculture minister’s statement expressing inability to take action against bogus seed companies under the Seed Act, 1966. The minister, however, had said that farmers would get replacement for seeds.

“It can be said that the concerned department has no intention to take criminal action against the vendors and the producers of bogus seeds even when they have duped the farmers and they have caused huge loss not only to the farmers but also to the country,” the order read.

Resowing, the judges observed, was capital intensive especially for poor farmers in the region. The court further observed that farmers were reluctant to approach the authorities to file complaints as they feel it will come to nothing. “It was not possible to sell bogus seeds in view of the provision of the Seed Act, 1966 without the connivance of officers of the concerned department. The court wants to take action against the concerned including the officers of the Agriculture Department, who did not take action against the traders for such crime… this court is giving interim direction also,” the order read.

The court has asked the concerned department to file details of complaints received at tehsil level, action taken under the Seed Act, visits made to shops, actions against companies, this kharif season.

The court has also asked police to submit details of complaints received and action taken. Similarly, the Agriculture Department has also been asked to submit the details about action taken in the last five years. Appointing advocate P P More as amicus curiae, the court has decided to hear the matter on next Friday.

Meanwhile, thanking the court for taking up the issue on its own, Manikrao Kadam, a farmer leader from Parbhani, said the court has come to the rescue of farmers. In regions like Wadvani in Beed and Gangakhed in Parbhani, farmers said that spot surveys to assess the extent of problem were underway. Govinda Yadav, a Congress activist and farmer in Gangakhed, said that farmers were unable to decide their next step and were waiting for clarity from the government on what kind of compensation to expect. “People will prefer to sow once again, but soyabean seeds may not be available. We will have to see what government advisories say,” he said.

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