The administration’s claims to have effectively tackled stubble burning are belied by the fact that only one farmer has been convicted in Mohali district in the last three years. Registering of FIRs for the offence, too, has failed to act as deterrent, it has been learnt.
Farmers continue to burn paddy straw left over in fields after harvesting, even after orders have been issued by Punjab government, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), National Green Tribunal (NGT) and now with the Supreme Court (SC) banning stubble burning. As cities in the north, including Delhi, remain in the chokehold of pollution, no action is being taken to curb the problem in Mohali.
The district administration in compliance with SC directives claims to have registered 19 FIRs against farmers, as against no FIR in 2018 and 2017, reveals data provided by PPCB.
The sole conviction in June 2018 was that of 78-year-old farmer Sohan Singh of Majat village in Mohali by the court of Kharar judicial magistrate after a police party stumbled upon stubble being burnt in a field owned by him near Dharakala village and booked him on November 5, 2016. Fined ₹200, Sohan Singh was released on probation after furnishing personal bonds of ₹30,000 for three months.
This year, 206 fires were reported, of which 190 were verified. Of these, FIRs were registered in 19 instances of stubble burning while seven cases were sent to court for prosecution.
On November 4, SC had asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to check stubble burning failing which the entire administrative and police hierarchy, ranging from the chief secretary to sarpanch and local policemen were to be held responsible for even one instance of stubble burning.
Hard to recover fines
Processes to recover fines imposed by PPCB from 2017 for the offence have also been slow even as the board claims that ₹2.55lakh has been imposed on 79 farmers. Although deputy commissioner Girish Dayalan had directed the revenue department and pollution control board to recover the fines, nothing has been done.
Last year, fines of ₹1.77 lakh were imposed on 67 farmers, but only ₹10,000 was recovered. In 2017, against fines of ₹170 lakh imposed on 62 farmers, only ₹2,500 was recovered.
Revenue records marked
The administration this year has also acted against 76 farmers by marking a red entry in their land records. This makes the farmer ineligible for government facilities or loans from banks or other institutions.
As an incentive to farmers who do not burn stubble, the Mohali administration has decided to give rewards of minimum support price bonus. “We have decided to reward ₹100 bonus on the MSP of paddy for every quintal, if the farmer has not burnt stubble,” said Dayalan.
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