Action has been initiated against as many as 2,923 farmers so far in the 20,729 cases of stubble burning reported till November 1 in Punjab, which expects about 10-20% decline in the number of such cases this year as against 2018, as a result of the intensified drive of the Captain Amarinder Singh led government.As against a total of around 49,000 cases of stubble burning last year, this year the state government has so far received reports of 20,729 cases, with more than 70% of the paddy already harvested.Despite the High Court having stayed the recovery of fine from farmers penalized last year, the state government has intensified its drive against the dangerous practice of stubble burning, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said in a statement here on Sunday.Even as he expressed the hope that the Prime Minister will understand, and respond positively, to his letter on the grave issue of the worsening Delhi air pollution, Captain Amarinder said his government was fully seized of the problem and was working committedly to put a stop to stubble burning. The Enforcement Teams had, till November 1, 2019, visited 11286 fire incidents sites, and Environment Compensation amounting to Rs. 41.62 Lac had been imposed in 1585 cases, Red Entry made in Khasra Girdawaris in 1136 cases, and prosecution/ FIR filed in 202 cases against the defaulting farmers. The process of verifying the remaining fire incidents and levying of environmental compensation was being expedited, said the Chief Minister, adding that the Punjab Pollution Control Board had also imposed Environmental Compensation of Rs. 62 lakhs on 31 Combine Harvesters operating without Super SMS.
These steps were not, however, sufficient to check the problem, as majority of the farmers in Punjab had less than 5 acres of land, making it economically unviable for them to go for hi-end ways of managing the stubble. In staying the process of recovery of the penalty imposed last year, even the High Court had taken note of the “growing indebtedness of marginal farmers and the serious issue of farmer suicides, and had chosen “not to add any further financial woes on the farmers,” the court had stated, while ordering that punitive actions may go on in due course of the law.Compensation by the central government was the only solution in the circumstances, said the Chief Minister, adding that the matter was not one of politics, but “a question of the future of our people, which goes beyond politics.” The ball was totally in the Centre’s court since most state governments were bankrupt, with his own state reeling under massive debt, Captain Amarinder said, adding that the fiscal situation was linked to GST, which had aggravated their economic problems.While admitting that Punjab was also contributing to the Delhi smog, due to the westerly upper winds, including those coming from Pakistan, Captain Amarinder said to put the blame entirely on his state was “absolutely incorrect.” Statistics showed that the parameters on the factors relating to pollution were higher in Delhi, he added. Instead of addressing the problem, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was playing political games, he said, asking what the AAP leader was doing on the ground to resolve the issue. The situation had aggravated in recent years as production of paddy had increased, with the last two years reporting record production in Punjab, even though the state’s people were traditionally not rice-eaters, according to the Chief Minister, who pointed out that the cities in the state were also enveloped by smog. Underlining the need to change the cropping pattern by weaning the farmers away from paddy, he reiterated his demand for MSP for other crops to help promote diversification.The central government has to step in and find a consensus to resolve the crisis, Captain Amarinder stressed.