Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira on Sunday asked the state government to not penalise farmers who burn paddy stubble by imposing fines and registering cases against them. “The government should not harass the farmers until the state government makes alternative arrangements for the consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of National Green Tribunal (NGT),” Khaira said in a statement in Chandigarh.
He claimed that the NGT while issuing directions to stop the burning of paddy stubble for a cleaner environment had also ordered state governments to provide equipment and machinery to farmers for the disposal of stubble. “Instead of providing equipment and machinery to farmers on a rental basis, the Punjab government is penalising them by registering cases against them,” he said.
Khaira, who is the leader of opposition in the state Assembly, said if the farmers were to plough paddy straw in their fields, it would cost them approximately Rs 4,000-5,000 rupees per acre, as it requires appropriate equipment and a tractor. “It is highly impossible for small and marginal farmers to dish out such a huge amount at a juncture when they are under a colossal debt of Rs one lakh crore and committing suicides,” he said.
Khaira said that he was of the firm opinion that unless the government offers Rs 5,000 per acre to the farmers or provides the necessary equipment for straw disposal, it would be impossible for the farmers to stop burning the stubble. “Farmers are left with no choice but to burn their paddy straw and prepare for the ensuing wheat season,” he said.
Significantly, several farmers’ outfit including Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) have said they have no option except to burn paddy stubble unless the government provides financial assistance for the disposal of crop residue.