Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today asked his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal what steps he has taken to end stubble burning by farmers in areas near the national capital as air pollution peaked to alarming levels. Kejriwal last week had sought a meeting with counterparts from Haryana and Punjab to discuss ways to manage the worsening air pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring states.
While Khattar said today he was open to meet Kejriwal “anytime anywhere” to find a solution to the issue, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh last week said the situation warranted Centre’s intervention as it has inter-state implications.
The practice of burning of crop residue by farmers of the two states have been blamed for the toxic smog enveloping the region during the winter season every year.
In a letter to Kejriwal, Khattar said some 40,000 families cultivate around 40,000 hectares in Delhi. “What steps have been taken to keep them from stubble burning?”. “I write this in response to your letter dated November 8. I believe no single person, organisation or government can improve the quality of air. Such collective problems require everyone to do their bit. And more importantly, a strong mechanism to enhance the outcome of such constructive steps,” Khattar told Kejriwal in the letter dated November 10.
Quoting from Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’, he said the bedrock of such a mechanism is a “mindset” where “words come out from the depth of truth”. “Unfortunately, your letter contains no hint of such a mindset. In fact, your reference to the helplessness of farmers in Punjab and Haryana in stubble burning betrays an inability to rise above short-term electoral interests,” he said.
He cited “publicly available satellite imagery data” and said they showed substantial reduction in stubble burning cases and fires from 2014 onwards in Haryana. Khattar said he was “likely” to be in Delhi on November 13 and 14. “You may feel free to call me to fine tune a mutually convenient date, time and venue for the meeting.”
A thick blanket of smog, mainly caused by stubble burning, has enveloped parts of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, severely affecting normal life and troubling people in breathing.
Haryana’s outspoken minister Anil Vij has previously said said that if the Kejriwal-led AAP government wants to tackle the smog problem in Delhi, it should provide grants to farmers of Haryana to stop them from burning crop residue.