The National Green Tribunal today said it would consider later this month the steps taken by the Centre and Punjab and Haryana governments to check burning of crop residue by farmers to curb air pollution. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar deferred the matter for hearing on October 30 after lawyers appearing for both the parties sought adjournment of the case. The green panel had earlier said “we expect no individual, body, department, panchayat, associations to directly or indirectly recommend or promote burning of crop residues in Punjab, UP and Haryana.” On the last date of hearing, the green panel had said the “serious” issue of stubble burning by farmers was still going on and had sought the response of the Centre as well as the Punjab and Haryana governments on the issue. It had earlier asked for names and details of all power houses and biomass-based energy plants which can use crop residue for power generation and had directed Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab governments to provide a detailed strategy of how happy seeders (machines to sow wheat without burning of paddy crop residue) or balers can be given to farmers.
The tribunal had also sought a reply from the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) as to why it cannot take the stubble from the farmers under its corporate social responsibility programme for the “general cause of environment”. The NGT had on October 11 directed Punjab to produce the farmers after the state said it had provided assistance to some of them to encourage them not to burn crop residue. The tribunal had taken exception to the fact that even after more than two years, nothing substantial has been done with regard to stubble burning. The Punjab government had earlier said it had taken Kalar Majri village in Nabha Tehsil of Patiala district as a model project for implementing the directions of the NGT and to sensitise the farmers.
Earlier, the NGT had also asked Punjab to look into the problems faced by the farmers and directed its counsel to seek instructions on whether compensation could be provided to them for disposing their agricultural residue while giving them liberty to engage any agency of their choice. It had warned the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan that it would stop the payment of salaries of government officials if they failed to come up with an action plan to prevent stubble burning, which triggers heavy pollution in Delhi-NCR.