On December 9, Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur) lifted a month-long dharna from in front of the office of SDM Jaitu in Faridkot after they were promised that a panel will examine the cases of red entries in revenue records and even environmental compensation (EC) imposed on farmers for burning paddy stubble. A day later, another group of farmers gheraoed agriculture officers of Ferozepur over the same issue. RAAKHI JAGGA explains why farmers are protesting against red entries and the EC.
Why are farmers protesting?
The farmers in Punjab are protesting to get all actions taken against them by the adminstration for alleged paddy stubble burning cancelled. These include FIRs, action under the Air Act, red entries in revenue records and environmental compensation imposed on them.
What is the detail of various penalties?
A total of 1,737 FIRs have been filed under Section 188 of IPC (disobeying orders duly promulgated by an officer). If prosecuted, a farmer can be awarded a jail term of a month and fine upto Rs 200. In 279 cases, complaints have been filed directly in court under Air Act. If charges of causing air pollution are established under the Act, it can lead to jail of six months and fine upto Rs 10,000, said Karunesh Garg senior environmental engineer, Punjab Pollution control board (PPCB). A total of 23,298 cases have been registered by the revenue department in which red entries have been marked in the revenue records of farmers while environmental compensation worth Rs 6.10 crore has been imposed in 23,308 cases. Total farm fire incidents in Punjab this years were 52,287.
Why do farmers fear red entries more than than the FIRs?
Red entries are marked in the revenue records against the land owned by a particular farmer. Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “A farmer gets the crop loan from banks or cooperative societies against a limit set by the financial institution for his or her land holding. The banks or cooperative societies will set new limits for the land only after a farmer gets the red entry rectified. Authorities now have a tool to blackmail the farmers to pay compensation and get red entries rectified”. Farmers had raised the issue before Capt Sandeep Sandhu, the Punjab CM’s media advisor, when he came to talk to them to get the Jaitu dharna lifted on December 9. Sandhu announced that a panel will decide about these entries. He too apprehended that farmers may get difficulty in getting crop loans. In addition, defaulting farmers may not be given posts such as Nambardars or panchayat secretary in villages.
Why has government registered cases under Air Act?
It is for the first time that that 279 cases have been filed against farmers under Section 39 of Air Act, 1981. Karunesh Garg said, “Farmers have caused air pollution (by burning paddy stubble). They are being given compensation for not burning stubble. So, why not they pay fine for causing air pollution. We have already filed challans in court in all the Air Act cases. Now court is to take action against them. If charges are proved, they can be jailed for 6 months and imposed a fine of upto 10,000 or both.”
How many challans have been produced in court regarding the FIRs lodged?
Out of 1,737 FIRs, sources said that not more than 200 challans have been presented in court till now.
Who will collect the environmental compensation?
The DCs are supposed to collect environmental compensation in their respective districts. District authorities have so far not chalked out any plan to collect this compensation. So far only Rs 70,000 fine has been collected.
What is the view point of farmers?
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan said that they have planned day-night dharnas from December 30 to January 1 outside DC offices demanding cancellation of all actions taken against the farmers.
The government, he claimed, has not implemented NGT’s recommendations and instead has taken action against the farmers.
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