On the day the Supreme Court of India slammed state governments for the continued stubble burning that is contributing to Delhi’s pollution, farmers in Bathinda burnt stubble outside the DC’s office complex, and dared authorities to register a case against them.
Over 100 farmers from different villages of Bathinda, under the banner of Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur), staged a protest march to the DC office Monday, and burnt a bundle of stubble they had brought in their tractor.
This was also a reaction to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s statement, who Sunday said they have acted against over 3,000 farmers for burning stubble. Over 22,000 stubble burning cases have been reported in Punjab so far.
Resham Singh Yatri, a farmer from Yatri village who sows paddy on about three acres of land, said, “I burnt my fields in the village and today, I have come to the DC office too. I farm about six acres of land. Over the years, I have shifted three acres to guar and cotton. However, for paddy, they need to provide me with proper solutions instead of threatening me.”
Resham is general secretary of Sidhupur farmers union of Bathinda district.
Baldev Singh Sandoa, president of this union of Bathinda, who farms seven acres in Sandoa village, said, “Who wants to create pollution? But what do we do with the stubble? Authorities need to tell us. Last year, Manpreet Badal, the state finance minister, had said that one unit of Bathinda’s thermal plant would run on paddy stubble. What have they done on it till now? If they run thermal plants and fertiliser-making units on our stubble, it will be consumed. Coal usage in these units will also go down.”
Yodha Singh, another farmer from Yodha village, said, “Now that we have burnt part of the stubble outside DC office, they are free to book us. They have lodged over 100 FIRs against our farmers in Bathinda alone. We sought details, which they never gave.”
On Sunday, Buta Singh Burjgill, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda), and Jhanda Singh Jethuke, president of Bharti Kisan Union, threatened officials against visiting farmers’ fields to issue challans or lodge FIRs.
Burjgill and Jethuke were in Barnala, speaking at a Pakka Morcha outside Barnala jail to seek pardoning of the life imprisonment awarded to farmer activist Manjeet Singh Dhaner. They said: “The government should not think that since we are busy with Manjeet Dhaner’s morcha, they can trouble our farmers. We have told all our members to gherao the officials if they come to book them and lock them in the tubewell rooms of their fields.”
Ram Singh Bhainibagha, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) from Mansa’s Bhainibagha village, said, “Our village is burning stubble. We know that it causes pollution and we are the first inhalers of this pollution. We are not fond of burning stubble, this is our compulsion. We have sought bonus worth Rs 200 per acre from the government to manage our stubble, but they are mum on it. They can give us advance money for wheat crop, we won’t sow it, we will allow paddy stubble to decompose in the field.”
He added: “We are given choppers, happy seeder and zero drills to avoid paddy stubble burning, but they are available only at a few showrooms. They should be available at agriculture society’s offices. Moreover, they are overpriced.”
The Union leaders, however, clarified they wouldn’t stop farmers from paying fines if they did it willingly. Farmers also said that the machines being provided by the Punjab government on subsidy for crop residue management work on heavy tractor engines, and hence are fuel intensive. Thus, they need bonus for running fuel expenses.