WHILE FARMERS are still protesting against farm laws passed by the Centre, another ordinance to monitor air quality in NCR and adjoining states and UTs (Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP and Rajasthan) has come into force with immediate effect.
The President has given his assent to The Commission for Air Quality management in NCR and adjoining areas, 2020. It focuses on improvement of air quality in NCR and adjoining areas. The commission will focus on better coordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The ordinance states that it had become necessary to evolve and implement a consolidated approach for monitoring, tackling and eliminating the causes of air pollution like stubble burning, vehicular pollution, industrial pollution, road dust, urban construction and so on. It was passed on October 28 and came into force at once as per the details of ordinance. A chairperson, members, secretary will be appointed for this commission and any non-compliance or contravention of any of provisions of this ordinance rules made thereunder or any order or directions issued by the commission will be an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend upto 5 years or with fine which may extend upto Rs 1 crore or with both.
Though the agriculture department of Punjab as well as the state Pollution Control Board are still studying the ordinance and waiting to see how it will unfold, farmers said they are not bothered.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU(Ugrahan), said, “They can pass any ordinance in which there is provision of giving death sentence to farmers, even then we will not be bothered. Give us a solution to paddy stubble rather than passing one or other ordinances. If they remember, farmers were not burning any stubble before they were introduced to intensive farming in the form of wheat, paddy. Earlier, farmers were not even using any fertilisers. Now every paddy season, they are talking about air pollution while air quality in NCR is bad throughout the year. They have added stubble burning as one reason for air pollution and hence in non-compliance offences, we farmers are also covered automatically. Let them be happy with their ordinances, we will see how they take action on farmers.”
Dr Darshan Pal, coordinator of all the 30 farmer unions of Punjab and president of Kirti Kisan Union, said, “We are already protesting against farm laws and will condemn even this new commission to monitor air quality. Over the years, if they observe, stubble burning cases are reducing and if they provide MSP to other grain, the farmer will shift to those crops, reducing area under wheat and paddy and hence the problem of stubble burning will be reduced and even soil health will improve as grains like bajra, jowar and maize are healthier than wheat, paddy. Indigenous varieties of wheat, paddy can also be less water consuming. They need to promote consumption of multi-grain flour and hence should make us grow the same (but with MSP guarantee). They need to suggest ways to reduce use of pesticides and imported fertilisers, rather than just forming commissions and at ground level, they are doing nothing. Farmer cannot go out of MSP, they need to understand this bitter truth.and now imprisonment, fine for non-compliance of any provision of ordinances. Their thinktank needs to be replaced with people who know some ground realities.”
Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, general secretary of BKU (Dakaunda), Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU (Dakaunda), added, “We are surprised at their speed of bringing ordinances without talking with farmers, states and just imposing them on people. This is an undemocratic way to bring ordinances to reduce stubble burning.” Rattan Sharma, PA to Sikander Singh Maluka, president of Kisan cell of SAD, said, “The industry has equipment to monitor air pollution but not farmers. Hence, such ordinances are dictatorship on farmers who are already reeling under debt and are upset due to the farm laws.”
Meanwhile, senior engineers of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) as well as the agriculture department refused to comment on the ordinance stating that they were still studying it and would comment after reading it thoroughly.
Sukhdev Singh meanwhile said, “This also infringes on rights of states. When this commission will monitor air quality and will punish violators, will conduct inspections etc as well, what will be the role of PPCB? Delhi and Punjab’s AQI levels indicate that Delhi has other reasons for pollution rather than putting blame on Punjab. Stubble is one reason to defame farmers.”
In Haryana, Leader of Opposition in Assembly Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “I am yet to study what exactly the Centre has said, but prima-facie it appears it is another burden on the farmer. Stubble burning is not the only reason for air pollution. There are various factors, be it industrial pollution, petroleum pollution and various other factors. Why punish only the poor farmer? Punish everybody else too with the same penalties.”
Haryana BKU president Gurnam Singh Chaduni said, “I don’t have words to condemn such a decision which imposes penalty of Rs 1 crore and five-year jail term for stubble burning. Majority of farmers have less than one-hectare land in India. Almost 90 per cent farmers in Punjab and Haryana have land holding worth less than Rs 1 crore. It means that if some farmer is caught engaging in stubble burning, he will not only lose his entire land but will also have to go to jail.”
With ENS Chandigarh