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Delhi Pollution: SC Orders Incentives for Farmers Who Shun Stubble-burning in Punjab, Haryana and UP

The bench also directed the Centre and the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to prepare a comprehensive scheme within three months to take care of environmental issues.

News18.com

Updated:November 6, 2019, 11:22 PM IST
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Delhi Pollution: SC Orders Incentives for Farmers Who Shun Stubble-burning in Punjab, Haryana and UP
A farmer burns paddy stubble in a field, on the outskirts of Amritsar. Many areas in the Delhi-National Capital Region recorded air quality in the "very poor" category on Wednesday morning, with particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter being the primary pollutant. (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered incentives for small and marginal farmers who shun stubble-burning, directing that support of Rs 100 per quintal be provided within seven days to those who have not burned stubble. The incentives will be for farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

A public health emergency was declared in Delhi-NCR last week following an alarming level of pollution, which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government said was because of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.

The court on Wednesday ordered state governments to provide machines on hiring basis and also operational expenses for hiring them. The court said the Centre and states should both work together to ensure machines for small and marginal farmers.

The bench directed the state governments to disburse the money immediately, saying the final call on the liability on who will pay — the states or the Centre — will be decided later. "The states won't wait for disbursal of money by the central government," clarified the bench.

The bench also directed the Centre and the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to prepare a comprehensive scheme within three months to take care of environmental issues.

"Paucity of funds cannot be a guise for any government to not discharge its responsibility," said the bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta. "Agriculture is the backbone of the country and interests of small and marginal farmers must be protected and a plea of lack of fund cannot be ground for the government to neglect them."

"To punish farmers isn't the ultimate solution," said the court, directing the state governments to provide them with incentives and equip them with machines free of cost.

The court also criticised the Delhi government for its failure to curb pollution in the capital, saying if it wasn’t for the court-appointed monitoring committee, authorities would have “finished” the city by now.

Hauling up the Delhi Chief Secretary, Justice Mishra asked, “You cannot deal with road dust, construction and demolition, or garbage dumping. Why are you holding the post?”

The bench wondered how construction was still going on in the National Capital when there was a stay on it. “Construction activities are still going on in Delhi. Look at the level of pollution. Please take strict action against the violators,” said Justice Mishra.

“What is happening to the funds coming from the World Bank for better infrastructure and development?” asked the bench. “So much of funds have come, where is the concept of a smart city? Why have the roads not improved?”

Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the Union Agriculture Ministry to give priority to farmers from UP, Punjab and Haryana when distributing equipment to prevent stubble burning.

Earlier in the hearing, the bench pulled up the Punjab government and its chief secretary over unabated stubble burning that has led to plummeting air quality in Delhi.

Coming down heavily on the state governments, the top court said if they do not bother about people, they have no right to be in power.

"You (states) have forgotten the concept of welfare government. They are not bothered about poor people, this is very unfortunate," said the bench, also comprising Justice Deepak Gupta, also questioning why the state governments cannot collect and purchase stubble from farmers.

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