Chandigarh, November 9: Sharing the concern of his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal over the dangerously rising pollution levels in the northern states, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said the situation warranted urgent intervention by the central government, which should immediately sanction compensation for farmers to check stubble burning.
Responding to Kejriwal’s request for a meeting to discuss the issue, Captain Amarinder said any discussion of the chief ministers would serve no meaningful purpose, with the Centre alone equipped to address this grave issue, which had inter-state implications. Since multiple states were involved, any meeting without the central government’s intervention would be inconsequential, he added.
Given the gravity of the situation, it was for the central government to rise to the occasion and come to the rescue of the farmers with financial aid to compensate for stubble management, said the Punjab chief minister.
Like Delhi, Punjab was also suffering as a result of the unbearable effects of smog and pollution, forcing closure of schools and other institutions in many districts and change in timings in others, said Captain Amarinder, reacting to Kejriwal’s distress over the deteriorating air conditions. The situation in Punjab was so serious that a spate of accidents over the past few days due to smog had led to several people getting killed and many injured, he pointed out, expressing apprehension of further worsening of the situation in the absence of immediate central intervention.
The delay on the part of the Centre to address the problem was costing the northern states heavy, lamented Captain Amarinder, adding that in view of the national importance of the issue, the Narendra Modi government should come out with immediate help to the states to resolve the crisis.
Pointing out that he had been consistently pursuing the matter with the central government, the Punjab Chief Minister reiterated his demand for immediate central assistance to farmers to enable them to opt for methods other than burning to get rid of the paddy straw. He himself had requested the central government to provide a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal over and above the MSP for paddy to compensate them for the additional financial burden arising from stubble management, he added.
Punjab was helpless in the matter as it could not force or penalise the beleaguered farmers who were trying hard to cope with massive debt burdens and did not have the money to meet the cost of stubble management, said Captain Amarinder, adding, however, that all efforts were being made to spread awareness and encourage the farmers to adopt alternative methods of eliminating the paddy straw.
The Punjab government had even provided incentives and infrastructural facilities to some farmers to prevent them from burning paddy residue, as was submitted before the National Green Tribunal some weeks ago, the Chief Minister pointed out. However, in view of the scale of the problem and the financial constraints faced by it, the state government was not in a position to intervene more aggressively and had thus been seeking central help to tackle the crisis, he added.
With Punjab expecting production of 18 million tonnes of paddy this season, leading to the generation of 20 million tonnes of straw, it was not possible for the state to make arrangements to store the stubble, said Captain Amarinder, stressing the need for a long-term solution to the problem. The Centre needs to be proactive in this regard and come out with a programme to resolve the issue, he asserted.