Despite a ban, stubble burning in the district is going on unabated. The violations are either not reported to the authorities or no action is taken in the 'interest' of farmers, hence the prohibitory orders remain on paper only. The political class that does not want to annoy farmers, notwithstanding the damage the practice does to the environment and farmers' own lands, makes sure that the menace goes unnoticed.
The farmers say they acknowledge the adverse effects of burning of crop residue but they have no alternative, whereas environmentalists demand a strict ban on it. “We can neither dump the stubble deep in the earth as it is a costly proposition, nor we can afford costly agriculture devices to remove it,” said farmer Jagtar Singh.
Another farmer, Paramjt Singh, said the government should first provide an alternative and then issue the diktat. “Even the Punjab and Haryana high court has said only farmers cannot be held responsible for the situation and asked the government to provide affordable solution to them,” he said, citing the court judgment.
Social Democratic Party president and social activist Jai Gopal Dhiman, however, said the government should ensure strict implementation of its orders as it was not only in the interest of the society but also good for the farmers as they were losing soil fertility. “The farmers are carrying on with the practice for their convenience but they should be made aware of its ill-effects. If they don't listen, strict action should be taken against them,” he said. “The entire society should not suffer due to the mistakes of a few people.”
Punjab Pollution Control Board executive officer ML Chauhan said the department could not initiate proceedings against violators. “If district magistrate's orders are flouted, it is for the police to register a case,” he said, but when a number of station house officers were contacted, they said they had not received any complaint.