The Centre has set aside funds to purchase over 34,000 machines to better manage paddy straw and avoid crop burning in three northern states. Burning of crops in states such as Punjab and Haryana contributes significantly to Delhi’s air pollution. This year, Haryana reported 1,029 instances of crop burning between March and May and fines amounting to Rs 1,15,000 have been collected from 41 violators so far. Last year, 1,800 FIRs were filed in cases relating to crop burning in Haryana. Earlier this week, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had pulled up four north Indian states for not submitting action plans to prevent pollution emanating from crop burning. This is significant, given the onset of one more harvesting season, which is generally followed by crop-burning in north India.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar warned the state governments of UP, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to follow directions. “We grant last and final opportunity requiring them, at least, to file action plans with complete accountability and elements of performance, within one week… (If) compliance is not made, we will be compelled to attach the treasury account of the states concerned,” the bench, also comprising expert member B S Sajwan, said. However, in May, the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, in a letter to the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), noted that the states had come up with action plans for which funds will be allocated for each state. The action plan, the Centre claimed, detailed steps taken to reduce the burning of paddy straw.
Further, funds have been allocated to purchase machines — such as happy seeders, hay rakes and straw choppers — around 13,700 for Punjab, 15,000 in Haryana and 6045 machines in UP. Some of these machines are designed to sow without burning residues. Meanwhile, the petitioner in the case in the NGT, Vikrant Tongad, who had sought a ban on burning agricultural waste, said the tribunal’s judgment has had an effect on awareness among farmers.