The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Wednesday directed the Punjab government to produce before it the 21 farmers it claims to have helped by providing incentives and infrastructural facilities to prevent them from burning crop residue.
“SHO, Kalar Majri, Punjab, is directed to ensure all 21 farmers referred to by the state government should be produced before the Tribunal on October 13, 2017,” the order by a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
While the Punjab government claimed to have adopted farmers from the “model village” of Kalar Majri in Patiala district, farmers from across the state gathered outside the NGT premises once again to put forth their grievances against the state government and its inaction.
The bench had last week told the state government to ensure that the chief secretary and the farmers meet to discuss an incentive structure. However, the bench Wednesday said it was “very dissatisfied” by the actions of the Punjab government. “You think you have no obligation to anyone on this earth. Why are you projecting this as a fight between the government and the farmers? It is as if their (farmers’) children don’t need fresh air, and nor do you,” the bench said.
Further, the NGT questioned the inaction of the state government for over two years since the case was filed to look into stubble burning and its effects on air pollution.
“We have been waiting for two years. What step did you take thereafter? You pick up one farmer, produce one farmer in entire Punjab, who you have said ‘here is the money, you will go to jail if you burn your crop’ or here is a machine that can help you manage the residue,” the bench noted. “Forget about the bench, as human beings, unless you make it a political issue, this is an issue related to the environment.”
During the proceedings, advocate IG Kapila, appearing for the farmers, referred to a newspaper report that pointed out that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and a few biomass power units had expressed interest in purchasing crop residue from farmers in surrounding states. “They (Punjab government) have definitely used the power of the state. Unfortunately, for ensuring that, the crop is definitely burnt,” he told the bench.
The counsel for the Punjab government said “two scientists from agricultural universities” were also present.
“If you leave the straw on the surface, there is no adverse effect on the soil but if you want to mix it with the soil, it will take at least three weeks for the soil to be prepared for the next crop,” said a scientist.
Last week, the NGT had asked the Punjab government to look into problems faced by farmers and directed its counsel to seek instructions on whether compensation could be provided to them for disposing of their agricultural residue while giving them liberty to engage any agency of their choice.