New Delhi, November 7
As Delhi-NCR continues to be a virtual gas chamber due to smog, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to take immediate steps to stop stubble-burning by farmers – the main reason behind higher levels of air pollution during this season.
A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul made the local SHO under the supervision of DGP and Chief Secretary of the respective state responsible for ensuring that stubble-burning was stopped. From today onwards they must start working on it, the Bench said.
“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 Bench – which also included Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia -- told Punjab Advocate General Gurminder Singh.
Directing the Cabinet Secretary to convene a meeting on Wednesday with all stakeholders to ensure that crop residue-burning is stopped forthwith, the bench posted the matter for Friday when it will monitor the progress.
"We do not care how you do it… it must stop. Whether by forceful actions and sometimes by incentives, you have to stop the fire. Your administration must do so,” it added.
“There cannot be a political battle every time… Delhi could not be made to go through this year after year,” the Bench noted.
It ordered the Delhi government to ensure that municipal solid waste was not burnt in the open.
As amicus curiae Aparajita Singh said the smog towers installed by the Delhi government were not working, Justice Kaul termed it “ludicrous” and ordered the Arvind Kejriwal government to take immediate steps to repair them.
It also directed the Delhi government to ensure that only the taxis registered in Delhi plied in the national capital during the air pollution crisis.
Pollution levels in Delhi were "very poor" on Tuesday morning after five consecutive days of severe air quality. Several cities in neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh also reported hazardous air quality levels. Ghaziabad recorded an AQI of 338, Gurugram 364, Noida 348, Greater Noida 439 and Faridabad 382.
The concentration of PM2.5 - fine particulate matter capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory system and triggering health problems - exceeded the government-prescribed safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre by seven to eight times in the national capital.
Stating that farmers were burning stubble due to economic reasons and to save time to sow the next crop, the Punjab Advocate General said the Centre should give subsidies for purchasing necessary equipment as marginal farmers can't afford it.
He said paddy cultivation must be phased out and substituted with other less water-guzzling crops, and the Centre must explore the options for giving Minimum Support Price for other crops rather than for paddy.
The Bench noted that a switchover to alternative crops other than paddy -- which was not a native crop of Punjab -- was needed to ensure that stubble-burning did not recur. The switchover could happen only if MSP was not given to paddy and was shifted to other crops, it said.
"We want all the stakeholders to act promptly in respect of the aforesaid aspects," it said.
"The residents of Delhi are grappling with health problems year after year because we cannot find a solution to the issue. It requires immediate attention and court monitoring irrespective of the fact whether the matter improves or not," the Bench said.
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