Tribune News Service
Patiala, November 26
A day after the Supreme Court came down heavily on Punjab authorities for failing to stop farm fires and asked why they shouldn’t be made to pay compensation to those suffering, it has emerged that the apex court has suggested similar action against erring farmers.
Acting accordingly, the state agriculture department is learnt to have started compiling data of the erring farmers and fines pending to date. The department, said sources, had started analysing the cases of the 2019 season separately. They said a separate list would be compiled of farmers who burnt paddy stubble after the SC banned the practice.
“We also issue notice to the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the farmers as to show cause why the orders of this court have been violated and why the farmers should not be asked to pay compensation, which may be determined by this court, and why the burden should not be fastened upon them also,” said the SC order on Monday. As many as 201 fire incidents were reported on Monday itself. The residue burning continues despite registration of nearly 1,700 FIRs against farmers for flouting the ban.
“We are compiling the data pertaining to farm fires and only the total farm fires and fines for this season are left to be compiled. We will send the list to the government and if the Supreme Court clears us to collect the fines, necessary action will be taken,” said Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.
The Punjab Remote Sensing Centre has recorded around 2.25 lakh cases of stubble burning after the paddy harvesting season over the past four years. An amount of Rs 38.58 lakh had been recovered as penalty while Rs 2.83 crore was outstanding till the beginning of this year’s paddy season, as per government data.
Penalties worth over Rs 50 lakh have been levied in around 53,000 farm fire cases so far this season. The maximum challans were issued in 2018 and a fine of Rs 1.37 crore levied on defaulters. But only Rs 19 lakh could be collected. A few months ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had barred the state pollution control board from collecting fines from farmers.
An official said erring farmers, backed by politically inclined unions, refused to deposit fine and even took officials hostage when they were approached.
Paddy pain: dual challenge
- Studies suggest area under paddy increased from 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960 to 30 lakh hectares in 2016
- Total irrigated area over the period rose from about 38% to 98%, of which 73% is irrigated via tubewells
- Paddy cultivation is also contributing to depletion of water table, posing a dual challenge for authorities
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