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Amid Delhi air pollution, Supreme Court's strong words for Punjab over stubble burning: 'Stop it’

Nov 07, 2023 12:47 PM IST

Delhi air pollution: The Supreme Court directed Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to stop stubble burning “forthwith”.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Punjab government over stubble burning while thick clouds of smog shrouded parts of Delhi as the air quality across the national capital continued to remain in the 'severe' category. It observed that there can't be a political battle all the time. “We want it (stubble burning) stopped. We don't know how you do it, it’s your job. But it must be stopped. Something has to be done immediately,” the Supreme Court told the Punjab government.

Farmers burn straw stubble after a harvest in a paddy field, on the outskirts of Jalandhar. (AFP)
Farmers burn straw stubble after a harvest in a paddy field, on the outskirts of Jalandhar. (AFP)

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, hearing air pollution matters, directed Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to stop stubble burning "forthwith", making chief secretaries and director general of police concerned responsible for overseeing the implementation of the court order. Justice Kaul observed that while travelling through Punjab over the weekend, he saw widespread fires on both sides of the road.

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The court also put the onus on the Centre, suggesting it should stop supporting minimum support price (MSP) for paddy in Punjab and should rather find ways to make farmers shift to alternative crops.

"The government has been propagating millets. Why not promote it?" the court said.

It adjourned the hearing till Friday.

On Monday, Punjab reported over 2,000 farm fires even as many parts of Haryana saw air quality indices in the 'severe' and 'very poor' categories while it was 'poor' in areas of the border state. As farmers continued to set crop residue ablaze, 2,060 fresh stubble-burning incidents were recorded in Punjab, taking the total number of such cases to 19,463 till Monday, according to Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data.

Stubble-burning incidents reported from November 1 till November 6 constitute 61 per cent of the total such cases in the current season, news agency PTI reported citing the data. The total stubble-burning incidents of 19,463 registered from September 15 till November 6 was 35 per cent less than 29,999 such cases in the corresponding period last year, the data stated. The state had reported 32,734 farm fires during the same period in 2021.

Meanwhile, Haryana's Fatehabad recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 425, followed by Faridabad at 412, Sonipat at 412, Jind 385, Hisar 380, Gurugram 376, Kaithal 370, Narnaul 340, Bhiwani 334, Rohtak 326 and Sirsa 308. In Punjab, Amritsar reported an AQI at 329, followed by Bathinda at 297, Ludhiana 283, Mandi Gobindgarh 266, Jalandhar 231, Khanna 228 and Patiala 220. Union Territory Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, saw an AQI of 149.

Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is considered one of the major reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in Delhi in October and November.

On Tuesday, the top court also directed Rajasthan and other states to follow its earlier order on the issue relating to firecrackers during the festive season. The Supreme Court directed the Rajasthan government to take steps to minimise air pollution, especially during the festival, adding that it is everyone's duty to manage pollution.

The court order came while dealing with an application raising high pollution levels in Udaipur based on the falling air quality index and no regulations to demarcate noise pollution levels

“When it comes to pollution, there is a wrong perception it is the duty of courts. But it has to be everybody’s duty,” the court said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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