On stubble burning, Supreme Court's strong words for Punjab: ‘Take a cue from Haryana’
Hearing pleas on Delhi air pollution, the Supreme Court ordered the Punjab and Delhi governments to take action against burning of agricultural waste.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Punjab government over stubble burning, one of the factors for air pollution in Delhi-NCR, and observed that farmers are being made a villain as they are not being heard in the court.
The Supreme Court stated the Punjab government's report suggests that 8,481 meetings have been held with farmers and farm leaders to convince them to not burn paddy straws by state house officers. It also recorded in its order that the upward trend in farm fires has not abated. “984 FIRs have been lodged against landowners for stubble burning. Environmental compensation amounting to more than ?2 crore has been imposed of which ?18 lakh has been recovered,” the apex court said.
Hearing a clutch of petitions on the toxic air across the national capital, a bench of Justices SK Kaul and S Dhulia ordered the Punjab and Delhi governments to take action against the burning of agricultural waste, which adds significantly to Delhi's AQI crisis.
“Why doesn’t the Punjab government make the process of crop residue 100% free? To burn it, all the farmer needs to do is light a matchstick. Machine for the management of crop residue to farmers is not everything. Even if the machine is given for free, there is diesel cost, manpower, etc,” the Supreme Court said, asking why Punjab cannot fund diesel, manpower, etc. and utilise the byproduct.
“The state of Punjab should also take a cue from the state of Haryana in the manner in which financial incentives are given,” said the Supreme Court.
The court also observed that land in Punjab is becoming arid slowly because the water table is getting depleted. If the land runs dry, everything else will get affected, the apex court said. “Somewhere the farmers should understand or be made to understand the consequences of growing paddy,” it told the Punjab government.
The court also asked attorney general R Venkatramani to explore “how you can discourage paddy and encourage alternate crops”.
The Supreme Court, in its order, also said that a committee must look into the aspect of discouraging the cultivation of rice. Long-term impact could be disastrous, it said, adding that, “Thus, persons concerned must put their heads together to see how to encourage switching over the alternate crop.”
Amid the political blame over air pollution, the top court also observed that state governments and the Union government must forget the politics and figure out how to do this.
If the blame game continues, land will run dry, water will disappear," it said.
Punjab clocks 634 fresh farm fire cases
On Monday, Punjab reported 634 farm fires with farmers in many areas continuing to set ablaze paddy straw despite police making persistent efforts to prevent stubble burning. The Punjab Police said it has registered 1,084 FIRs against erring farmers and imposed penalties worth ?1.87 crore in 7,990 cases since November 8.
With the police continuing to make efforts to prevent stubble burning, Punjab witnessed 634 farm fires, the lowest since Diwali, said Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arpit Shukla. Shukla is the police's nodal officer with a mandate to keep a check on stubble burning.
What is Delhi's AQI today?
Pollution levels in Delhi and its suburbs increased further overnight with the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the capital recorded at 365 at 9am on Tuesday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.
The city's AQI stood at 348 at 4pm on Monday, deteriorating from 301 on Sunday. The 24-hour average AQI, recorded at 4pm every day, was 319 on Saturday, 405 on Friday and 419 on Thursday.
Neighbouring Ghaziabad (340), Gurugram (324), Greater Noida (306), Noida (338) and Faridabad (336) also recorded 'poor' air quality.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', 401 and 450 'severe' and above 450 'severe plus'.
(With inputs from agencies)