Stubble burning ban: Over 100 farmers booked in a day in Bareilly division, 11 in Baghpat
After getting a rap from the Supreme Court on stubble burning, the authorities in Uttar Pradesh have sprung into action. More than 100 cases were registered against farmers in Bareilly division alone on Tuesday. With farmers continuing to flout the orders in the absence of a viable alternative to stubble burning and adequate compensation for waste disposal, the administration has now invoked section 144 in the region to prevent their gathering in the fields.
Cases were lodged against farmers in other parts of the state too. The district administration of Baghpat lodged cases against 11 farmers on Tuesday for burning stubble in fields. Three cases were also registered in Shamli district on similar charges.
Lekhapal of Baghpat tehsil Sachin Bharti said, “Cases were registered against 11 farmers of the district for defying the court order and burning stubble in fields.” Superintendent of police Pratap Gopendra Yadav said that all the cases were registered at the Singhavli Aheer police station and police was investigating them.
Despite the ban on stubble burning, around 2,000 cases have already been reported from 10 districts of Uttar Pradesh, including Mathura (455 cases), Pilibhit (321), Shahjahanpur (316) and Rampur (296). The other districts from where a high number of cases of stubble burning have been reported are Lakhimpur Kheri, Maharajganj, Bareilly, Aligarh, Jalaun and Jhansi.
Consequently, UP chief secretary (CS) RK Tiwari has asked the district magistrates (DMs) and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) of these districts to submit a report by November 20, detailing the action taken by them in cases of stubble burning.
The state government directives came in view of the stern stand taken by the Supreme Court, which has summoned the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab on November 29.
Following the chief secretary’s missive, the police and the administrative authorities of these 10 districts got into a damage control mode and called an immediate meeting. Police teams were rushed to adjoining rural areas to ensure compliance of the order.
By Monday night, 123 cases were registered in Bareilly alone, with the maximum -- 80 -- being reported from Bahedi town, nine from Aonla, five from Faridpur, 10 from Bhuta, three from Nawabganj Kotwali, and one each from Shishgarh, Cantt, Bithri Chainpur and Gaya. Sub-divisional magistrate (Sadar), IP Singh, said that section 144 had been imposed in the Sadar tehsil, as farmers were flouting the ban.
FARMERS PROTEST CRACKDOWN
The crackdown to enforce the ban on stubble burning has evoked a howl of protest from the farmers who are demanding compensation from the state government to cover the labour and transportation expenses incurred in disposing of the crop residue without burning it.
Farmer Faheem Akhtar of Bahedi, who has been fined for flouting the ban, said, “Nobody is willing to help us with the disposal of crop residue. Since we do not have the necessary equipment and financial resources, we have no other way but to burn stubble to get rid of it and prepare our field for cultivating the new crop.”
He also reminded that the Supreme Court had asked the state government to pay farmers Rs 100/ quintal to dispose of stubble.
However, SSP (Bareilly) Shailesh Pandey said the drive was being undertaken to comply with the apex court’s order. “We are taking action on the basis of the reports that we are getting from our officials in the field,” he said, adding that so far, recovery challans to collect fines had been served to 52 people in Bahedi and the money would be deducted from their bank accounts.
There was discontent among farmers in other areas too. In Muzaffarnagar, leaders and activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union gathered in support of farmers, describing the cases lodged against them and the penalties slapped on them as “exploitation and injustice”.
The farmers protested outside the regional pollution control office in Muzaffarnagar under the leadership of BKU’s Rakesh Tikait.
Speaking to HT over phone, Tikait said, “We will march towards jail with the ‘parali’ (crop stubble) and burn it there if officials continue to victimise farmers.” Talking about the cases lodged against farmers in Baghpat and Shamli districts, he said, “Farmers here don’t burn stubble. They use it as fodder to feed their livestock. In fact, they purchase ‘parali’ in good quantity from the from neighbouring Haryana to use it as animal fodder.”
Tikait further said, “We have been told that action against farmers is being taken on the basis of satellite images, which is unfair. Farmers sometime burn weed and grass in their fields and satellites catch those images on the basis of billowing smoke. Can farmers be held responsible for spreading pollution in this manner?”
PROVIDE EQUIPMENT & KNOWLEDGE: IVRI
Last week, agriculture scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly had written to the state government, recommending that farmers be provided with equipment and proper knowledge about disposing of stubble without burning it.
“Farmers set fire to stubble or the straw that remains after grains have been harvested. This is because they find stubble burning a cheaper way of getting rid of the crop residue rather than weeding it though the prescribed process, which is costlier,” said Dhirendra Chaudhary, district agriculture officer.
“The cost of stubble burning is cheaper, as the penalty works out to be around Rs 2,500 per acre. But if they don’t burn it, the stubble processing cost comes to around Rs 6,000-7,000 per acre,” he said.