The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab to grant financial assistance of Rs 100 per quintal within seven days to small and marginal farmers for handling crop residue of non-basmati rice to ensure that they do not burn stubble to clean their fields.
The special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta passed the interim order after a two hour long hearing on the issue of severe air pollution which has engulfed the Delhi-NCR region.
Machines are to be provided by States to these farmers for hiring, and the States are directed to provide operational costs to small and marginal farmers for hiring to handle crop stubble.
To punish farmers is not the ultimate solution; provide them with the basic facilities and amenities.
"Farmers are to be equipped; not punished", the Court said.
The Central Government has been directed to prepare a scheme to protect the interests of small and marginal farmers within 3 months. This will be made applicable across the country. In the meantime States should pay for the incentives to farmers from their funds immediately. The Court will decide later about on fixation of liability.
The Court lambasted the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for their inaction to stop the stubble burning.
There was no advanced planning to tackle stubble burning, observed the Court. The government authorities are to be held liable for their inaction, the Court said. There should have been timely execution and adoption of the machines.
At the beginning of the hearing, the Attorney General submitted that farmers will be affected if crop stubble burning is banned. They say that they have no alternative, submitted the AG.
"Punjab consists of large areas owned by rich farmers and they have tried the machines and they state that they are ineffective in large areas. The small farmers find it too expensive", AG said.
Justice Mishra, heading the bench, said that stubble burning cannot be allowed under no circumstances. "Can you permit people to die like this ? What is the advantage of having all these developments in the country ? This is failure of the machinery and scientific brain of the country", he said.
"It will be total chaos and failure of machinery if stubble burning is allowed to continue. It will be the governments responsibility to collect. Make local administration liable, make gram Panchayats responsible", Justice Mishra added.
The AG suggested the option of zoning the areas and rotating the stubble burning day-wise in each zones.
The bench outrightly rejected this suggestion. The Attorney General replied that there were more than 2 lakh farmers and they cannot be controlled.
During the hearing, Justice Arun Mishra severely admonished the Chief Secretaries for their failure.
"We want something immediately. You keep considering. There's no coordination. See the farming of other countries, they're prospering. You don't care about the farmers. If you don't have the funds, tell us. We will provide it", Justice Mishra orally remarked.
The bench repeatedly stated during the hearing that the issue of air pollution cannot be allowed to become an annual recurring thing.
On Monday, the same bench had passed a slew of directions to tackle the issue of air pollution in Delhi. The SC took up the issue in the wake of Environment Pollution Control Authority declaring a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR in view of the severely deteriorated air quality.
Follow the below twitter thread for detailed account of the hearing.
J. Mishra - Punishment for farmers is not a solution. You need to provide facilities and amenities. You're only creating law and order problems. You need to provide these things. You're not providing them the basic things. #DelhiAirQuality #DelhiNCRPollution— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 6, 2019