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Stubble Burning: Punjab Farmers Stand Up Against National Green Tribunal

National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) 2015 direction to ban stubble burning put farmers under huge financial burden. Farmers gathered outside NGT premises and lashed out at the state government for not compensating them adequately

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New Delhi: Hundreds of farmers from Punjab today assembled outside the National Green Tribunal (NGT) premises at Faridkot house here to put forth their contention in the stubble-burning case, where they also lashed out at the state government. Angry with the Punjab government for not compensating them adequately, the farmers said they were being put under huge financial burden by the authorities for implementing the NGT’s 2015 direction banning stubble burning.

The farmers from various districts including Bathinda, Patiala, Ferozepur and Sangrur, started assembling outside the NGT premise from around 9 am.

Bharatiya Kisan Union-Rajewal president Balbir Singh Rajewal, representing the farmers, said the NGT was unaware of the ground situation and it was proceeding on the basis of the information provided by the Punjab government in the case.

He said the farmers were being asked to harvest the paddy and desist from burning the crop residue, but no financial assistance was being provided to them by the government.

He said farmers are not able to earn back even their initial investments in the agriculture and are running into losses. Bearing the cost of machines to take care of crop residue without burning them is not easy in such a scenario, he said.

There has to be some financial help from the government but when “the state government is not able to pay salary to its employees, how will they give money to farmers”, he asked.

He claimed two-thirds of the population has less than one hectare of the land.

The power generation units and bio-mass plants have also refused to give any money for depositing agricultural residue. The government has told the NGT they have a village in Patiala. But what about other areas. There has to be some mechanism, he said.

A troop of Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi police was deployed outside the tribunal to tackle the situation.

All farmers left after their leader briefed them about the proceedings in the case and told them that they have been impleaded as parties in the case.

The NGT had in 2015 directed state governments to take coercive and punitive action against persistent defaulters of its crop residue burning order and asked them to withdraw the assistance provided to those farmers.

The green panel had said that the five north Indian states — Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi — which have issued notification prohibiting agriculture crop residue burning should ensure that these notifications are enforced rigorously and proper action is taken against the defaulters.

The tribunal had said small land owners having less than two acres of land will have to pay Rs.2,500; medium land owners holding (over 2 acres and less than five acres) will have to pay Rs.5,000; and those owning over five acres will have to pay Rs.15,000 per incident of crop burning towards environment compensation.

The panel had asked state governments to provide machinery free of cost to the farmers having less than two acres of land, to farmers having medium land owners at Rs.5,000 and for the large land holding farmers at Rs.15,000.

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