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Court asks Centre, states to respond to plea on field fires 

Chandigarh, October 29

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday asked the Union of India and Punjab and Haryana pollution control boards to respond to a petition on stubble-burning. The Haryana Government, too, has been asked to file its reply in the ongoing case.

The developments before Justice Jitendra Chauhan’s Bench took place on a petition by Bharti Kissan Union counsel Charanpal Singh Bagri.

He had earlier sought issuance of directions to the respondents to pay adequate per-acre compensation to farmers, as orders by the state government had restrained them from burning paddy straw, stubble and residue. 

Bagri told the Bench that the farmers burning paddy straw were fined from Rs 2,500 to Rs 15,000. Criminal action was also initiated. Besides, red entry was made in the revenue record.

The state policy was, as such, resulting in oppression of the farmers and discouraging them from paddy cultivation. Bagri submitted that the paddy straw remained in the field and decayed if it was not burnt.

He told the Bench that the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Delhi High Court had laid down guidelines for the state governments to follow to avoid “situation where farmers were not able to carry out agricultural activity”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had, in fact, directed the state government to take proactive measures by providing affordable and readily available solutions. The intention was to save the farming community and the general public from hazards of straw-burning. Certain steps were also suggested.

He added the Delhi High Court, too, issued certain guidelines and sought status report from the governments. “Despite this, coercive measures were being taken against farmers,” he said. He requested for appropriate directions to the state government to rescue the farmers in view of the guidelines laid down by the courts.

Taking up the matter in its initial stages, Justice Rajan Gupta had asked the Chief Secretary to depute a senior-level officer, not below the joint secretary’s level, to assist the court in the matter.

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