Punjab fines 3,000 farmers for stubble burning as Delhi engulfed in smog

The Punjab chief minister said the state authorities have initiated action against a total of 2,923 farmers in 20,729 cases of stubble burning reported till November 1 | Commons

As Delhi chokes under severe pollution, the Punjab government has acted against nearly 3,000 of its farmers for burning stubble, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday (November 3), while accusing his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal of doing little beyond “playing” politics to address the problem.

“Instead of addressing the problem, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is playing political games,” said Singh, asking what the AAP leader has done on the ground to resolve the issue.

The Punjab chief minister said the state authorities have initiated action against a total of 2,923 farmers in 20,729 cases of stubble burning reported till November 1.

Punjab government expects about 10 to 20 per cent decline in the number of such cases this year as against 2018 as a result of the intensified drive by it, he added.

While admitting that Punjab was also contributing to the Delhi smog due to the westerly upper winds, including those coming from Pakistan, the chief minister said putting the blame entirely on his state would be absolutely incorrect.

Singh on Saturday had proposed a “stubble management bonus” of Rs 100 for a quintal of farming produce by the Centre, while seeking its intervention to chalk out an inter-state strategy to curb the menace of air pollution.

The enforcement teams have visited 11,286 fire incidents sites till November 1, 2019 and environment compensation amounting to Rs 41.62 lakh has been imposed in 1,585 cases with FIRs registered in 202 cases against defaulting farmers.

The process of verifying the remaining fire incidents and levying environmental compensation is being expedited, said Singh, adding the Punjab Pollution Control Board has also imposed environmental compensation of Rs 62 lakhs on 31 joint harvesters operating without Super Straw Management System.

These steps were not, however, sufficient to check the problem, as most of the farmers in Punjab have less than 5 acres of land, making it economically unviable for them to go for hi-end ways of managing stubble, he said.

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The compensation by the Central government is the only solution in the circumstances, said the chief minister, adding the matter was not one of politics, but a question of the future of our people, which goes beyond politics.

Singh said the situation has aggravated in recent years as production of paddy has increased, with the last two years reporting record production in Punjab, even though the states people were traditionally not rice-eaters.

Pointing out that even Punjab cities have been enveloped by smog, Amarinder Singh underlined the need to change the cropping pattern by weaning farmers away from the paddy production and reiterated his demand for Minimum Support Price for other crops to help promote diversification.

The AAP government in Delhi has been blaming BJP-ruled Haryana and the Congress-ruled Punjab for failing to check stubble burning which is considered one of the main contributors to air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.

Following the rise in pollution levels in New Delhi on Sunday the principal secretary to the prime minister and the cabinet secretary will hold a high-level meeting to discuss the issue of deteriorating air pollution in Delhi-NCR, officials said.

Besides Delhi officials, the meeting will be attended by representatives of Punjab and Haryana governments via video-conference, they said.

Uttar Pradesh government too warned that action will be taken against those burning garbage, polythene and stubble in the field. In a directive to officers, chief secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari said that the farmers should be encouraged and made aware of the consequences of burning straw in their fields. Officials should ensure straw is mixed in the soil to make compost.

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(With inputs from agencies)