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Saturday, July 13, 2024

SC and govt defend farmers despite stubble burning choking Delhi, but Diwali firecrackers are public enemy No. 1!

Year after year stubble burning has emerged as the top reason for the decline of the Air Quality Index (AQI) and yet there is a reluctance on the part of the government to clearly call out the farmers for choking Delhi. Even the apex court has pulled up the Centre and state for pollution in Delhi but refused to look at the real cause.

Apex court on Stubble burning

The SC bench while absolving farmers were quick to point fingers at firecrackers during Diwali. The apex court made the observation in a hearing on a plea seeking directions to provide stubble-removing machines to small and marginal farmers for free filed by environmental activist Aditya Dubey and law student Aman Banka A TOI report says:

“Be the petitioners, the Delhi government or anybody else — it has become a fashion to blame the farmers. Have you seen how crackers are being burnt in Delhi for the last seven days? What was the Delhi police doing?” he asked…

…The top court also termed the rise in air pollution in Delhi-NCR an “emergency” situation. It asked the Centre and the Delhi government to take immediate measures to improve the air quality and suggested steps such as stopping vehicles and clamping a lockdown in the national capital.

Not just SC but even the central government has been shying away from blaming the farmers possibly keeping the upcoming Punjab assembly elections in view. The centre’s affidavit is equally confusing and says that stubble burning contributes just 10% to the air pollution. The court remarked “In fact, now the cat is out of the bag. The farmers’ stubble burning contributes to 4 per cent of pollution. So we are targetting something that is insignificant”.

stubble burning

It must also be pointed out that the AQI continues to be a cause of concern even after Diwali has passed. Furthermore, the affidavit cites dust as the primary cause high pollution levels.

Stubble burning and its impact on AQI

The Centre-run SAFAR (System for Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) data in early November stated that 36% of the pollution was due to stubble burning leading to the national capital’s AQI remaining in the severe category. In the same period last year Delhi’s pollution as a result of stubble burning stood at 42% and in 2019 it amounted to 44% of the city’s pollution.

ANI quotes environmental activist Vimlendu Jha as saying “If the government was actually making an effort the air quality would not have turned this bad. Stubble burning is an important contributor to pollution. We need to find a sustainable solution to stubble burning”.

Every year farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn crop stubble before the next sowing season. Tthe stubble that farmers burn is mostly paddy (rice) stubble which is burnt because of the short (10-15 days) gap between rice-harvesting season and the wheat-sowing time. And why do farmers grow rice in Punjab despite almost negligible local consumption? Because rice is covered under MSP (Minimum Support Price) and government procures almost 100 % cent of the rice produced in Punjab and Haryana.

Also, government subsidies on water and power in these states makes it easier to grow a water-intensive crop like rice, but this has resulted in overexploitation of groundwater. Experts recommend effective and diversified cropping patterns are the need of the hour in Punjab and Haryana.

So why are Hindu festivals being targeted? Diwali is being used as a convenient beating stick as it is probably difficult to address the actual cause. All kinds of arguments, such as stubble burning contributing only 4-10% of total pollution through the year, is being used to downplay its seasonal impact. But firecrackers, whose contribution is microscopic, are demonized. It is even more appalling that Delhi’s problems with air quality is used as a basis to ban crackers across the country!

Everything in our Republic gets distorted due to deracinated, disconnected elite & vote-bank politics. It is only the Hindu identity that is the easiest punching bag.

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