The Supreme Court on Tuesday called out the governments of Punjab and Delhi for their inadequate response to the rampant stubble burning contributing to the capital’s air pollution crisis.
A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia mandated immediate action against the practice that has worsened Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI).
The court highlighted the severity of the situation, stating that it was the most polluted November in six years. “The theory is known. The problem has been known for years, and it is your job to control it,” the court told the state governments of Delhi, along with neighbouring Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
The court acknowledged that the farmers from Punjab are often vilified without being given a platform to voice their concerns, and suggested they be helped with resources to understand the problem. “The farmer is being made a villain. He must have some reason to burn this stubble,” the court said.
The Supreme Court also suggested that the Punjab government should emulate Haryana by providing financial incentives to farmers to dissuade them from burning stubble. It emphasized the need for state support, especially for small landholders.
“For poor farmers, the state should fund 100 per cent of machinery… this is the duty of the state,” the court said.
‘Farmers burning stubble should not get MSP benefits’
On the contrary, the bench also suggested that the farmers who engage in stubble burning should be deprived of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) benefits as a part of the economic repercussions of their actions.
“Why should people who violate the law get economic benefits?” questioned the bench.
Justice Dhulia acknowledged the sensitivity of the MSP issue but noted that legal violations should not be rewarded with financial incentives. The bench proposed that paddy should not be made available to farmers who persist in burning their fields, as a deterrent to prevent future occurrences of farm fires.
Delhi ordered to transfer advertisement funds to rapid rail project
On the Delhi government’s delayed payments towards the Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS), the court ordered the state a reallocation of Rs 415 crore worth of funds from the Aam Aadmi Party’s advertisement budget to the RRTS project. The Delhi government was granted a week’s time to comply with the order.
Previously in July, the court had criticised the Delhi government for failing to contribute Rs 415 crore to the rail network, which promises to alleviate vehicular congestion. The government was then instructed to disclose the amount spent on advertisements over the past three years.
Delhi’s air quality continues to plummet each winter, with the AQI reaching ‘very poor’ levels, as per central government data. Contributing factors include farm fires, Diwali fireworks, traffic emissions, and construction dust, compounded by the lack of wind to disperse these pollutants.
As of Monday, Punjab reported 634 instances of farm fires as farmers persist in burning paddy residue to prepare for subsequent crop cycles, despite police efforts to curb the practice.
First appeared on www.indiatoday.in