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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Friday gave a ‘final chance’ to the Punjab government to submit an action plan within a week for controlling air pollution from crop residue burning The NGT will next hear the case on August 21. Joint director, Punjab Agriculture Department, Manmohan Kalia, said they had chosen Patiala district as a model district to implement the action plan and claimed that they had submitted an draft action plan to the Tribunal later Friday. Director, Punjab agriculture department, J S Bains was unavailable for comment.
Farmers had filed a petition with the NGT against the government’s way of enforcing the straw management ways, including the attachment of super Straw Management System (SMS) with combine harvesters while harvesting paddy when several other machines were available.
Counsel IK Kapila, who has been taking up the case for the farmers in the NGT, told The Indian Express that the Punjab government had earlier issued a notification for compulsory fitting of the SMS with combine harvester in January this year and later when farmers went to the NGT, the government told the tribunal that this notification had been withdrawn.
“But now the Punjab government, according to media reports, has asked the district administration to force combine owners to retrofit super SMS and combine manufacturers to make only super SMS fitted combine, which meant nearly Rs 1.5 lakh additional burden, and even loan is being denied for purchase of combine harvester without super SMS,” informed the farmers’ counsel.
Also, on July 20, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had also issued an advisory and sent to all the districts asking DCs to ensure that all the owners of self propelled combine-harvester to attach super ‘SMS’ with the combine harvester for the better management of the crop residue, and gave several references about it in the past and also quoted the name of NGT that it had also prohibited the burning of residue in the fields.
Advocate Kapila said the NGT, while hearing the case Friday, said it had never directed the state government about the compulsory attachment of the SMS but directed Punjab government counsel to ensure proper management of it and help the farmers to stop the burning of it in the fields.
“Now, the time for harvesting is near and the government has been issuing such advisories through the PPCB putting pressures on administration, farmers, and combine owners to ensure the attachment of the SMS fitment with the combine-harvesters,” said a farmer who had attended a meeting regarding this organised by the district agriculture office in Doaba.