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Friday, December 13, 2019

Red herring? Reports by DCs say nearly half farm fires not due to stubble burning

Punjab agriculture secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said, “We are working on it. We are getting things verified yet again as to how come in more than 24,000 cases, the cause of fire was something else but not the crop residue burning”.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Published: November 24, 2019 8:45:44 am
Sangrur farmers, Sangrur farm fires, Sangrur stubble burning, stubble burning in Sangrur, farm fires in Sangrur, Delhi pollution, Delhi air quality, Delhi smog, Delhi air pollution, India news, Indian Express In 24,355 (or 47. 5 per cent) cases, the cause of fire was something else and not the crop residue burning. (File photo)

Nearly half the farm fires reported in Punjab in the ongoing harvesting season were not due to burning of crop residue or paddy stubble, as per the action taken reports (ATRs) filed by all the district commissioners (DCs). The ATRs have been submitted to the state agriculture department.

As per the data sourced from the department, a total of 51,302 farm fires were recorded till November 20. However, in 24,355 (or 47. 5 per cent) cases, the cause of fire was something else and not the crop residue burning. The reports submitted by the DCs say that only 26,947 farm fires were due to paddy stubble or crop residue burning. Now, the field staff has been asked to verify the figures once again.

Punjab agriculture secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said, “We are working on it. We are getting things verified yet again as to how come in more than 24,000 cases, the cause of fire was something else but not the crop residue burning”.

Meanwhile, the number of farm fire incidents reached 52,154 Friday (November 22), compared to 50,970 on the corresponding date last year. The total included 22 fresh farm fire incidents.

This despite the state government spending close to Rs 10 crore on creating awareness against paddy stubble burning. The state government had also announced a compensation of Rs 2,500 per acre for the small and marginal farmers who had not burnt the paddy straw and had instead managed it in environment friendly way. It had already disbursed over Rs 19 crore to 29,343 farmers before putting the process on hold after a scam to fore where several people had wrongly claimed and got the compensations money. The process was restarted this week but the process to claim the compensation as well as to disburse it was more stringent.

Meanwhile, with 6661cases Sangrur continued to remain on top in farm fire incidents even though the ATR states that in 1896 of these incidents, or in nearly 28 per cent, no crop residue burning was observed. Sangrur is closely followed by Bathinda with 5761 cases of which nearly 61.5 per cent or 3541 cases were such where no crop residue burning detected.

As per the sources in the agriculture department, government staff had personally visited the farms in 49,150 cases. “If no crop residue burning was found in such huge number of cases, then where did the smog come from? Only a re-verification will clear the air,” a senior agriculture department official said.

Earlier, Supreme Court had observed that stubble burning contributes to around 44 per cent of the total pollution in Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi CM, had repeatedly blamed the governments in Punjab and Haryana of not doing enough to control the farm fires.

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