The news report of stubble burning at the Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute has left the National Green Tribunal fuming.
The Tribunal has taken suo motu cognizance of a recent news report about paddy straw burning at the Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute and asked the Centre, the Rajasthan government and others as to why action be not taken against them under the law and in keeping with the principle of "polluter pays".
A bench of Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore and expert member Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal expressed its disquiet at none other than the State's instrumentalities flouting its orders against stubble burning, which has been recognized as one of the major sources of pollution in Delhi and NCR.
The bench took note of a news report published in a Hindi daily highlighting the burning of 'Parali' (stubble of paddy crop) after harvesting the crops at Agricultural Research Institute, Durgapura, Jaipur and directed the Registrar of Agriculture University, Bikaner to remain present before it on June 26.
"It is rather shocking to the core of our conscience when we came across a news item in daily newspaper…wherein it mentions about burning of Parali after harvesting the crops at Agricultural Research Institute, Durgapura, Jaipur. It has also been mentioned in the news that despite of stay orders having been passed by National Green Tribunal, prohibiting burning of Parali in the States, the Agricultural Research Institute has in its campus burned down the stubble after harvesting the crop.
"Here is a case where not our farmers but government and its instrumentalities are themselves are taking the steps which had been of serious concern for the public at large and the State is duty bound to prevent/prohibit such practices. Moreover, several orders have been passed by the Tribunal in the past with the directions to the States for taking appropriate steps," said the bench.
It issued notice to the Union of India, Ministry of Agriculture, the State of Rajasthan through its Chief Secretary, the Agriculture University, Bikaner through its Registrar; Director Agricultural Research Institute, Durgapura, Jaipur; Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board.
It is to be noted that the Tribunal had way back in year 2013 taken note of pollution on account of stubble burning in case titled Vikrant Kumar Tongad. Vs. Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control Authority) & Ors.
In year 2014, the Tribunal has asked the Centre and various neighbouring farming states to frame a national policy for farmers to check straw burning. The Centre had then proposed giving incentives to farmers and making promoting efficient farming practices with subsidies.
In year 2015, the NGT directed the Delhi government and the four northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to check the bi-annual menace as the farmers engage in stubble burning to save time between sowing of wheat and rice. The Tribunal had also announced a fine of Rs 2,500 to 15,000 on farmers found indulging in straw burning.
In year 2016, Stubble burning emerged as one of the major issues before the Delhi High Court when it took suo motu cognizance of Delhi's worsening air pollution.
Last November, the Tribunal had ordered that minimum support price should be denied to farmers who indulge in stubble burning.