Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said he was happy that the Supreme Court had recognised the need to provide financial assistance to the small and marginal farmers to check the menace of stubble burning.Even as he made it clear that his government would implement the orders of the apex court as soon as it receives the judgement copy, the Chief Minister reiterated that the Centre would have to come to the rescue of the states, which were facing serious fiscal constraints. While the GST regime had stifled the financial resources of all states, Punjab, in particular, was in dire straits in view of its massive debt burden, he noted.The Chief Minister was reacting to reports of the Supreme Court’s directives to UP, Haryana and Punjab governments to provide financial assistance within seven days to small and marginal farmers to ensure that they do not burn stubble to clean their fields. The court’s observation, he said, had clearly vindicated his stand that the crisis was economic and needed an economic solution to address it.Though the SC had left the amount of incentive to be paid to farmers to be determined by the respective state governments, it did take note of the observation of the high-level task force of the Government of India that the expenditure incurred by farmers on managing the crop residue in sutu was Rs 100 per quintal, which is the sum Captain Amarinder has also been demanding, said an official spokesperson.
Captain Amarinder welcomed the Supreme Court’s verbal observation that a committee to be set up by the court would consider all the detailed reports to finally decide the issue of source of this funding will be decided finally by the court, even though, initially, this amount would have to paid by the state government. The Chief Minister hoped the matter of funding the incentive would be sorted out soon, given the fiscal situation of the states.Taking note of the court’s verbal suggestion to look at various funds available with the Government, including CAMPA to finance the incentive scheme, Captain Amarinder said it was gratifying to see the apex court taking cognizance of the ground reality of the situation in the light of the national health emergency imposed in Delhi as a result of dangerously high levels of air pollution.The court had effectively recognised that the distressed farmers had no viable alternative to stubble burning, in the absence of financial aid, the Chief Minister said, hoping that this would also lead to a political consensus on the issue.The Chief Minister pointed out that he had been personally pursuing the demand for Rs 100 a quintal to wean the farmers away from the deadly practice of burning the paddy straw as the only effective solution to the problem. It was unfortunate that political blame games had prevented a consensus on this so long, he said, but expressed the confidence that the Supreme Court judgement would pave the way for a long-lasting solution to the problem of environmental pollution.