Coming down heavily on the governments of Delhi, Punjab and the Centre over pollution, the Supreme Court Wednesday said it was a question of life and death of crores of people in the Delhi-NCR region and authorities should be held responsible for its failure to curb it.
“Can you permit people to die like this due to pollution? Can you permit the country to go back by 100 years,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said.
The Supreme Court directed Punjab, Haryana and UP to provide support of Rs 100/quintal and necessary machines to small, marginal farmers who haven’t burned stubble, within seven days effective today. “Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy and it’s bounden duty of the state to look after the interest of farmers,” the apex court ordered, urging the three states to prepare a comprehensive scheme to take care of environmental issues within three months.
Mincing no words, Justice Arun Mishra pulled up Punjab Chief Secretary for not taking proactive steps to curb stubble burning, which has been largely blamed for deteriorating air quality in neighbouring states during winters.
“Why can’t the government machinery stop stubble burning? Why the government can’t collect and purchase stubble from farmers? Punishing farmers is not the solution…you don’t even have a policy…you want to rule from ivory tower and leave people to die,” Justice Arun Mishra said.
The Punjab Chief Secretary, however, acknowledged that the state did not have a policy for purchasing stubble from farmers. “We will suspend you from here…problem is all have forgotten the concept of welfare state,” Justice Mishra said.
The top court also said that if governments don’t bother about people, they have no right to be in power. “We expect more from democratic government of the country to deal with issue of stubble burning and curb pollution,” the bench said.
On Monday, the Supreme Court banned all construction activities and garbage burning in the National Capital Regional (NCR). A fine of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5,000 will be imposed on those violating the order.
“Don’t you feel ashamed that flights are being diverted and citizens are not safe even in their homes. It is a shocking state of affairs that there are unpaved routes and pits in the national capital of the country,” the apex court further said.
Justice Mishra also rejected Attorney General KK Venugopal’s suggestion to divide stubble burning zones into seven regions and allow farmers in each zone to burn crop residue taking turns. The Attorney General later clarified that the suggestion was not discussed with officers and he was making “a practical submission”.
-with PTI inputs