Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday said farmers or stubble burning should not be blamed for air pollution, citing a Supreme Court observation.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson, who has been one of the most prominent faces of the protests at Delhi borders against the Centre’s farm laws, also demanded an apology from those holding the farming community responsible for pollution woes.
“Those labelling farmers as villains for air pollution due to stubble burning must apologise to farmers. The Supreme Court has also said it is not right to hold farmers responsible because only 10 per cent of the pollution is caused by stubble and that too for one-and-a-half to two months,” Tikait tweeted in Hindi.
Tikait’s BKU is part of farmers’ collective Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the protests against three central farm laws at Delhi’s borders since November 2020, demanding their withdrawal and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for crops.
On Saturday, the apex court also questioned the Delhi government over its decisions to install smog towers, and told the Centre at the same time that blaming the farmers has “become a fashion” when air pollution in the capital increases.
“Be the petitioners, the Delhi government or anybody else — it has become a fashion to blame the farmers. Have you seen how crackers are being burnt in Delhi for the last seven days? What was the Delhi Police doing?”
The Supreme Court added, “You are saying two lakh machines (for stubble management) are available, but the poor farmers cannot afford these machines. After the agrarian laws, the landholding in UP, Punjab and Haryana is less than 3 acres. We can’t expect those farmers to purchase those machines. Why can’t the Centre and the state governments provide the machines? Take away the stubble for use in paper mills and various other purposes. In winters, the stubble can be used for fodder for goats, etc. in Rajasthan.”
After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the Centre is providing machinery at 80 per cent subsidised rate, the bench asked, “Can the farmer afford it? I am a farmer and I know it, the CJI is also from a farmer family he also knows it. The problem is of incentivisation. If you are not giving incentives to farmers for alternatives then things cannot change. Enforcement cannot happen just like that.”
The apex court also wanted to know, “How do we ensure that stubble is removed, in time and taken to thermal power plant(s) and then economic remuneration (is provided) to farmers?”
In winter, air quality in parts of north India, particularly Delhi-NCR, deteriorates to levels that impact human health. Farm fires for stubble burning are considered among other contributors like industrial and vehicular emissions and firecrackers.
(With inputs from PTI and Bar and Bench)