10-20% dip in stubble burning cases this year: Punjab CM

Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh: Action has been initiated against 2,923 farmers in 20,729 cases of stubble burning till November 1, which marks a 10-20 per cent decline in the number of such cases this year as against 2018, the Punjab government said on Sunday.

After around 49,000 cases of stubble burning were reported last year, this year the state government has so far received reports of 20,729 cases, with more than 70 per cent of the paddy already been harvested.

Despite the high court putting a stay on the recovery of fine from farmers penalised last year, the state has intensified its drive against the dangerous practice of stubble burning, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in a statement.

Expressing hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will understand and respond positively to his letter on the grave issue of worsening air pollution in Delhi, Amarinder Singh said his government was fully seized of the problem and was working committedly to put an end to stubble burning.

Following their visits to 11,286 fire incident sites till November 1, the enforcement teams have imposed environment compensation amounting to Rs 41.62 lakh in 1,585 cases, besides registering FIRs in 202 cases.

The process of verifying the remaining fire incidents and levying of environmental compensation is being expedited, the Chief Minister said, adding that the Punjab Pollution Control Board has also imposed environmental compensation of Rs 62 lakh on 31 combine harvesters operating without super straw management system.

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

In staying the process of recovery of the penalty imposed last year, even the high court had taken note of the “growing indebtedness” of marginal farmers and the serious issue of farmer suicides, and had chosen “not to add any further financial woes on the farmers.”

Compensation by the Central government is the only solution in these circumstances, said the Chief Minister, adding that the matter was not one of politics, but a question of the future of our people, which goes “beyond politics”.

The ball was totally in the Centre’s court since most state governments were bankrupt, with his own state reeling under massive debt, Amarinder Singh said, adding that the fiscal situation was linked to GST, which had aggravated their economic problems.

While admitting that Punjab was also contributing to the Delhi smog due to the westerly upper winds, including those coming from Pakistan, Amarinder Singh said to put the blame entirely on his state was “absolutely incorrect”.

Statistics showed that the parameters on the factors relating to pollution were higher in Delhi, he added.

Instead of addressing the problem, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was playing political games, he said, asking what the AAP leader was doing on the ground to resolve the issue.

The situation aggravated in recent years as production of paddy has increased, with the last two years reporting record production in Punjab, even though the state’s people are traditionally non-rice eaters, said the Chief Minister, while pointing out that even cities in Punjab are getting enveloped by smog.

Underlining the need to change the cropping pattern by weaning the farmers away from paddy, he reiterated his demand for MSP for other crops to help promote diversification.

The Central government has to step in and find a consensus to resolve the crisis, the Chief Minister said.

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