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Tuesday 21, January 2020
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Fine for farm fires

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up Punjab, Haryana and UP for their failure to stop the practice of stubble burning by farmers that adds to pollution in Delhi, saying that a fine should be imposed on these states to prevent its recurrence, and recovered from officials — right from top to bottom.

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up Punjab, Haryana and UP for their failure to stop the practice of stubble burning by farmers that adds to pollution in Delhi, saying that a fine should be imposed on these states to prevent its recurrence, and recovered from officials — right from top to bottom. The court also asked why the state government machineries should not be asked to compensate people who suffer from diseases like cancer and asthma because of this. While the concern of the court may be justified because of the hardships that stubble burning entails for those living in the nation’s Capital, ensuring a quick end to this seasonal practice is going to be a long-winded process because of the sheer scale on which paddy cultivation is practiced in these states. 

Even as the hearing went on in the SC, farmer unions in Punjab staged protests against the state government over the lodging of FIRs and imposition of fine, warning of intensifying their agitation. The government’s action had followed a court hearing during which both compensation and action against the offenders was recommended. 

Stubble burning is a practice that should be shunned best voluntarily, with interventions by the government to aid it. A financial stimulus was advocated for this and the Punjab Chief Secretary informed the court that a compensation of Rs 19 crore had been distributed to those who did not burn stubble. The government had also started appointing nodal officers to spread awareness about the harmful effects of stubble burning. Farmer unions have questioned the rationale: while stubble burning leads to only 8 per cent pollution, what about the rest? Earlier, the NGT had imposed a fine on Punjab under its ‘polluter pays’ principle for failing to prevent the pollution of its rivers, which was to be recovered from industries, but it proved to be an arduous process. Fines for checking stubble burning will prove to be a tough task, with the rabi season set to begin. It will take time for action and awareness to bring about results.

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