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Stubble burning: Government authorities helpless yet again  

Ranjeet S Jamwal | Chandigarh |

With Punjab farmers resorting to stubble burning in a clear violation of state government orders, state government authorities appear helpless in stopping this practice to check pollution.

Till date, 788 cases of stubble burning have been detected across the state. Mass stubble burning has also been reported from various districts including  Mansa, Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala, Fazilka, Moga and Ferozeopur with the farmers uniting to defy the ban on stubble burning till the government comes up with a solution.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) officials said despite the satellite tracking of such incidents and pin-point information of the concerned sites, farmers have shown little concern for the penalties being slapped for stubble burning.

"In many cases, farmers are resorting to mass burning which makes it difficult for us to identify  offenders and slap the penalty on them," said a PPCB official pleading anonymity.  

Of the 788 farmers booked so far for stubble burning, fine of nearly Rs.8 lakh has been recovered from only 226.

While a farmer is fined Rs.2,500 for stubble burning on two acre land, fine for two to five acre land is Rs.5000 and Rs.5,000 for land above over five acre.

Even the block level response teams — comprising of a revenue department official, an agriculture department official, a PPCB official and a policeman – who have been tasked to fine farmers for stubble burning have been facing wrath of farmers and farmers' unions.

In fact, barring PPCB officials, in some places the staff of  remaining three departments have expressed their inability to take action against farmers as it spoils their working relationship with them.

The director, agriculture, Jasbir Singh Bains blamed the inadequate infrastructure, required for the management of the stubble, for the problem and said  proposals have been sent to Centre seeking liberal subsidy to prevent the practice which leads to pollution.

"If farmers don't pay the fine, the department will not give them any subsidy for seeds and agricultural equipments," he told The Statesman.

Farmer leader Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, who heads Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta),however, said farmers are forced to burn their agricultural waste as they have no other option.

"They government should provide free facilities or compensation for disposal for stubble in scientific way. But instead of doing this, the government is targeting debt ridden farmers for pollution while owners of factories and brick kilns get away without any action despite causing pollution throughout the year," he said.