Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ruled out “confrontation with farmers on the issue of stubble burning” and said that his “government would not add to the financial burden of the beleaguered farmers, many of whom were committing suicide under economic hardship”. Amarinder is the first CM from a paddy growing state to come out in favour of farmers openly.
After orders from NGT and Delhi High Court, Punjab government has so far been busy issuing directives as part of its multi-pronged strategy to check this menace of stubble burning. But CM’s statement indicates that the state government is planning go soft of erring farmers yet again. Already under fire for not able to extend the farm debt waiver yet, the state is wary of penalising farmers for stubble burning, said government officials.
“There was no question of penalising the farmers, who could barely make both ends meet,” the CM was quoted as saying in the statement. While claiming that he was committed to environmental protection, Amarinder added that “the law and order machinery was not enough to solve the problem, which required collective efforts by the Government of India and state governments for a meaningful resolution”.
The government is also worried as the month long paddy harvesting season coincides with Diwali this year again and high pollution levels would invite sever criticism. “But we cannot let our farmers suffer. We may not take any strong punitive action. Farmers are already burdened,” said a state official. Last year, the government had challaned farmers and imposed fines of Rs 67 lakh, but only Rs 18 lakh fine was recovered from the big farmers.
Meanwhile, the Finance Commissioner (Development), Punjab,is scheduled to appear before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday about the measures taken by the government. “We have appealed to the farmers not to burn the straw. We are giving them subsidy for the machines (for stubble management). It will prove to be effective,” said Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, commissioner and director, Agriculture, Punjab.
The farmers too plan to present their case before the NGT on Wednesday.
“We have no money….When a farmers embraces death by deciding to commit suicide, do you think he is bothered about government action?” said Onkar Singh, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal). He said they will tell NGT that state government has left them all alone to do stubble management.
CM meets Union Agriculture minister
Punjab CM, meanwhile, met the Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and reiterated his demand for payment of compensation at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal for paddy straw management. A CMO spokesperson said the Union minister extended his ministry’s full support to Punjab in this regard. Amarinder urged the Union minister to ask the concerned Union Ministry to provide for a bonus of Rs100 per quintal on procurement of paddy as an incentive to dissuade farmers from burning the paddy straw.