The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday directed state governments to take action against persistent defaulters of crop residue burning and asked them to withdraw the assistance provided to those farmers.
“In the case of persistent defaulters of crop residue burning, an appropriate coercive and punitive action could be taken by the state government concerned, including launching of prosecution...,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
The green panel said five north Indian states Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh which had issued notifications prohibiting agriculture crop residue burning, shall ensure that these notifications were enforced rigorously and proper action was taken against the defaulters.
“State governments are directed to provide incentives to farmers for not burning agriculture residue in the open, but they are also required to take into consideration passing of such directions, including withdrawal of assistance provided to the farmers, if they persist with the defaults,” the bench said.
It directed that the National Policy of Management of Crop Residue-2014, prepared by the Union agriculture ministry, shall in conjunction with the action plan prepared by the states be implemented without any default and delay.
The tribunal said landowners having less than two acres would have to pay Rs 2,500, medium landowners holding two-five acres, Rs 5,000; and those owning over five acres would have to shell out Rs 15,000 per incident of crop burning as environment compensation.
As incentive, the panel asked state governments to provide machinery free of cost to farmers having less than two acres, at a cost of Rs 5,000 to medium landowners, and for Rs 15,000 to farmers with large landholdings.
The NGT’s judgement came on a plea by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, who sought a ban on the burning of agricultural waste/remnants in open fields.
Tongad had alleged that the burning of agricultural residue such as straw in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh caused air pollution not only in these states but was also a major cause of smog in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The National Green Tribunal has fixed the penalty to be imposed on farmers for every incident of crop burning (as per land holding).
Those owning less than 2 acres will be fined Rs 2,500, those owning between 2-5 acres Rs 5,000 and those owning over 5 acres will be fined Rs 15,000.