Days after calling Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a “shameless liar” for blaming farm fires in Punjab for pollution, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to evolve a consensus on finding a solution for the health emergency, and admitted that stubble fires, accompanied by wind direction, were partly to blame.
A statement by Punjab CMO said Singh made it clear that he had no intent of brushing his hands off the state’s responsibility, but added that the entire country, including Delhi itself as well as the Centre, had allowed “this state of affairs to emerge and sustain, with our various acts of commission and omission”.
“No Indian, and definitely no person in Punjab, is oblivious to the misery of our brethren in the national capital, whatever many around the country might have been led to believe,” he wrote.
Pointing out that his own children and grandchildren in Delhi were currently sharing the plight of the lakhs of people in the capital, he said the prevailing situation “has exposed the hollowness of our claims of being a progressive and developed nation”.
“How can a country be called developed when its capital city has been reduced to a gas chamber, not by any natural disaster, but by a series of man-made ones?” he asked.
Admitting that stubble fires, supported by the wind direction, were contributing to the crisis in Delhi, he also noted that data from several independent agencies had pointed out that large-scale industrial pollution, traffic overload and excessive construction activity in the capital were equally, if not more, to blame.
He wrote that Punjab had tried to enforce the law against stubble burning to the maximum extent possible, and was even penalising the farmers, “even though it goes against my conscience to punish a community that has suffered, and continues to suffer, at the hands of an ungrateful nation”. But that, he added, “does not really deter the farmers from resorting to burning the paddy straw to keep their pathetic margins from falling further”.
Delhi and Haryana, too, were doing what they could, he pointed out, but added that the role of the Centre had remained dubious.
He recalled that he had personally suggested to the PM and other union ministers a separate bonus amount of Rs 100/quintal to facilitate stubble management by farmers. “Perhaps your government does not feel that is the right solution, which would explain its failure to respond positively to my request,” he wrote.
Reacting to Singh’s letter, a Delhi government spokesperson said: “In 2017, when the Delhi CM went to Chandigarh, the Haryana CM met him but the Punjab CM refused to meet. Till three days ago, Singh said Punjab was being blamed wrongly for pollution and stubble burning. Why have they woken up so late? They said they will not take action against people burning crop stubble. This is irresponsible behaviour.”