Farmers’ outfits in Punjab and Haryana have slammed the Centre’s move to constitute a commission to monitor air quality management in NCR and the stringent penalties introduced for violation of pollution norms.
Officials of Punjab agriculture department and state pollution control board have said they are still studying the ordinance notified by the Centre.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “Give us a solution to paddy stubble instead of passing ordinances. Farmers were not burning stubble before they were introduced to intensive farming of wheat and paddy. Now every paddy season, they are talking about air pollution even though air quality in NCR is bad throughout the year. We will see how they take action against farmers.”
Farmers, politicians point to other causes
The Ordinance states that any non-compliance or contravention of any of its provisions, or any direction of the commission, will be an offence punishable with up to 5-year jail term, or with fine that may extend up to Rs 1 crore, or both. Farmers’ and political leaders in Punjab and Haryana say this is aimed at agriculturalists from these states and contend that stubble burning is just one reason for poor air quality in the capital region. Delhi-NCR and Punjab’s AQI levels indicate that Delhi has other reasons for pollution as well, they argue and seek other solutions than firming up penal provisions against farmers.
Dr Darshan Pal, coordinator of 30 farmer unions of Punjab and president of Kirti Kisan Union, said, “We are already protesting against farm laws and condemn this too. Over the years, stubble burning cases are reducing. If MSP is provided for other grains, farmers will shift to those crops and the problem of stubble burning will be reduced. The people in their think-tanks need to be replaced with those who know ground realities.”
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, “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.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines