Money Matters

Bureaucratic germicide

Money Matters
By Munawar Hasan
Mon, 07, 20

Needless to say that quality seed has been a fundamental requirement for getting good production of any crop. There is zero possibility of reaping a good harvest, if a farmer does not apply high-yielding seeds having tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. In fact, good agricultural practices evolve around quality seed. You can never have a competitive crop even if you religiously follow all good agriculture practices except applying healthy seed having purity, vigour and adaptability to the soil. Thus, seed selection has been considered as a key area and an absolute necessity that can never be ignored.

Needless to say that quality seed has been a fundamental requirement for getting good production of any crop. There is zero possibility of reaping a good harvest, if a farmer does not apply high-yielding seeds having tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. In fact, good agricultural practices evolve around quality seed. You can never have a competitive crop even if you religiously follow all good agriculture practices except applying healthy seed having purity, vigour and adaptability to the soil. Thus, seed selection has been considered as a key area and an absolute necessity that can never be ignored.

Despite this basic thing understandable to even a child and an initial prerequisite known to every grower for success of farming, Pakistan’s seed sector has been marred by poor quality, low yielding, impure seed laced with diseases and prone to the onslaught of pests. On top of such ills, if a seed is healthy but marred by pitiable germination rate and high price, it is again a net loss to the farmer.

The rampant complaints about seeds quality as well as affordability are primarily an outcome of a bad regulatory framework, negligence and corruption on part of officials concerned that allows public and private sector entities involved in business of spurious and inferior quality seed largely going scot free.

When it comes to human resource spearheading key seed regulation, research, production and marketing chain, there are regrettable examples of bad governance affecting the whole agriculture sector. The seed supply chain has been blemished by non-productive and sedentary attitude of officials concerned, negatively contributing to productivity of the seed sector. The once ace research institutions in the public sector have now turned into dead organisations. How can lifeless and passionless entitie develop a vigorous seed?

Apart from various abovementioned woes of the seed sector, availability of lower finances in state-owned research institutions and weak oversight by policy makers have been a nail in the coffin. But, surprisingly we seldom heard any such complaints by high-ups of the public sector bodies.

In recent years, the downfall of two prime seed entities in the public sector of Punjab has been haunting farmers and other stakeholders. These are Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC) and Punjab Agriculture Research Board (PARB). Both these institutions played a remarkable role in maintaining a supply chain of quality and affordable seed through various innovative ways. However, the fate of both PSC and PARB is the same after a management collapse. They have now become stinking dead entities.

Bad governance gravely hampering PARB output will be discussed later. Here I must try to mention how did PSC fall prey to parachuting of junior and ill-intentioned officers, who played havoc with PSC in less than a year. Although the gradual decay makes PSC a not so robust seed marketing entity, the appointment of one Dr Ghazanfar Ali, a grade-18+ officer as Deputy Managing Director PSC proved the last straw in this regard.

The PSC top boss was not only accused of lying about his promotion, but also found guilty of causing losses of billions of rupees to this prime public-sector seed company of the province. Dr Ghazanfar was allegedly parachuted in PSC. He later tried to serve the cause of private business companies by being acting MD of PSC, who also became Secretary of Punjab Seed Council, which is the regulatory body of the seed sector in the province.

The order to appoint him was issued in violation of rules as he is a grade 18+ officer and DMD and MD posts are always filled with appointments of grade-20 officers. He allegedly got himself appointed in this post allegedly through the office of the then chief secretary with the covert support of the seed industry. He has been blamed of submitting forged AG office documents in this regard for getting himself appointed on this post

Dr Ghazanfar Ali has been accused of and found guilty of gross misconduct and malpractices in an ongoing and another recently concluded departmental inquiry. He may face removal from service charges as a result of these inquiries, sources have informed.

Despite such professional character unbecoming of a civil servant, sources added, “his name was being recommended for the post of managing director of PSC by certain quarters”.

As per record of the Agriculture Department, he is a grade-18 officer; however, he insisted and claimed within the department that he is a grade-19 officer while presenting alleged fake documents. When the attention of additional secretary (admin), provincial Agriculture Department was drawn towards the participation of Dr Ghazanfar in a course for promotion into grade-20 in Faisalabad, he said that as per his information, Dr Ghazanfar is not a grade-19 official. He also confirmed that he did not get permission from the department for participation in the course. As per office record, he was absent these days, he confirmed to this scribe.

To probe about grade, director general agriculture research Punjab, wrote four letters since the beginning of this year, asking him to present job-related documents for forwarding his promotion case from grade-18+ to 19 but to no avail.

Moreover, the Punjab Seed Corporation has failed to buy relatively good quality seeds, causing losses of billions of rupees at the hand of its inexperienced management. The de facto top boss of PSC has been accused of causing losses worth billions of rupees on account of procuring poor-quality and lesser quantity seed.

PSC Officers Association and Workers Union also campaigned against Dr Ghazanfar for several weeks, displaying posters at head office and also wrote a letter to higher management for conducting inquiry against his alleged failure in handling affairs of PSC. The high-ups of Punjab Agriculture Department are also aware of what is going on in PSC and may soon take action over such alleged malpractice, forgery and misappropriation.

Dr Ghazanfar has nothing concrete for defending himself over gross allegations about his professional conduct. He claimed he was directly recruited through PPSC in BS 18+Special Pay which was one step higher than BS-18. He insisted that the cabinet approved a four-tier service structure of Research Wing wherein all BS-18+Special Pay were merged in BS-19 without mentioning any reference in this regard. About comments of the admin section and research wing of the Agriculture Department regarding his grade, he observed, their foul plays have already been challenged by many officers in the courts.

About his appointment as DMD of PSC, Dr Ghazanfar claimed, there is no eligible officer in the corporation to be appointed on the seat of DMD. “If anyone knows a better seed expert, he may propose to the government, I have no issue.”

About buying poor-quality cotton seed, Dr Ghazanfar said he had not relaxed any of the standards. If any procurement officer has violated the approved policy, he would have to bear the brunt.

To a query about attending course while being absent from office and using official vehicle/staying at a luxury hotel, he observed that he was MD of PSC at that time and had powers to self-sanction leaves and tour programmes. The TA DA is always drawn in accordance with TA Rules, he added. Dr Ghazanfar did not refute allegations about using a major chunk of transportation funds saying re-appropriations and revised budget estimates are a normal practice in the government to meet expenditures.

Unfortunately, many believe that Dr Ghazanfar not only has no merit to work in PSC but also that he contributes nothing positively for achieving goals of providing cheap and quality seed to farmers.

The writer is a staff member