New Delhi : To test Punjab’s claims of having supported 21 farmers to manage stubble in a sustainable manner without burning, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed the state to bring these farmers before it on Friday.
Earlier this month, the Tribunal had rapped the Punjab government for not incentivising the farmers or assisting them to manage the crop residue, which is estimated to be around 35 million tonnes, and is currently being set ablaze by farmers to make up for the short window between winter and summer crops.
On Wednesday, as the government informed the Tribunal that it had been helping the farmers to manage the residue without burning and has adopted Kalar Majri village in Patiala district where it has also provided assistance to 21 farmers, the NGT said: “Present those 21 farmers that you claim to have supported and incentivise to mange the residue without burning. Bring them here on Friday.”
The bench headed by NGT chief, Justice Swatanter Kumar also heard from accounts of the state’s farmers who rebuffed the state government’s claims as mere eyewash and alleged that it was not doing anything to to help or carried out an awareness campaign against stubble burning.
The farmers from Bhartiya Kisan Union-Rajwal added that the government rather approached them in the first week of September – the harvest season, with “warnings and threats” and not assistance.
They also claimed that the operational cost of this is too high and the state government is neither providing them with machinery nor any other kind of assistance.
On Wednesday, over 100 farmers had gathered here outside NGT. They also rebuffed the claims that reverse ploughing to mix the residue with lower layer of soil helps in managing it, as the NGT had suggested.
“This creates fungus and some farmers who had earlier taken this step met losses as the production dropped,” Balbeer Singh Rajewal, Bharatiya Kisan Union-Rajewal president, who apprised the Tribunal about the farmers’ issues, told IANS.
He said that to manage the stubble per acre requires at least Rs 6,500, which includes diesel and labour cost, and expensive machinery is also needed.
“Farmers neither have that kind of money nor they have time. From the first week of November, wheat sowing will begin and by October mid, fields are to be prepared for sowing potato by some farmers.
“We had been asking the government that the stubble is ready, come and collect it. No one comes to collect it, they rather showed up as the harvest began and warned us with penalties,” Rajewal said.
The NGT had earlier fixed the environment penalty amount per incident of crop burning to be paid by small land owners having less than two acres of land at Rs 2,500, medium land owners holding over two acres and less than five acres at Rs 5,000 and those owning over five acres at Rs 15,000.
With stubble burning in neighbouring states having direct impact on Delhi’s air quality, which is currently deteriorating on daily basis, the NGT had in 2015 asked Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to curb this practice and later asked them to incentivise the small farmers to manage the stubble.