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Air Pollution: Union Govt to send Flying Squads to Punjab to check crop burning

New Delhi: Following a stern Supreme Court directive to stop stubble burning, the Union government has decided to send flying squads to Punjab and Haryana for daily reporting as nearly 40 per cent paddy crop is still to be harvested in Punjab – the state mainly responsible for enveloping the national capital region with a thick layer of toxic smog.

The Cabinet Secretary asked the Punjab administration to take “effective action” to stop further stubble burning, officials said on Thursday, following the high-level review of the crop burning issues in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reprimand.

“While 60 per cent of paddy harvesting has been completed in Punjab, the corresponding figure is more than 90 per cent in Haryana. The flying squads from the Commission of Air Quality Management will be sent to both states to keep an eye on the enforcement of the SC directives,” sources said.

Government officials squarely blamed Punjab – ruled by the AAP government – for the toxic haze claiming that 38 per cent of the air pollution in Delhi on Nov 8 was contributed by stubble burning, of which 93 per cent came from Punjab. They said over the years the northern state did little to stop the practice.

Officials claimed 1.2 lakh Seeder machines were given to Punjab and 76,000 to Haryana for stubble management. While Haryana devised a scheme to provide subsidies to the farmers to pay the rent for such machines, there had been no such scheme in Punjab.

“Punjab farmers who had been receiving free electricity and water, also demanded the machines free of charge,” said an official, flagging the faults of the Punjab government in managing the annual crisis.

Sources said Punjab officials informed the Union government at the review meeting that it could not run such schemes in the absence of resources.

“Since 2018, the Centre has given Rs 1,426.41 crore to Punjab for procurement of crop residue management machines. It is time for Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann (Chief Ministers of Delhi and Punjab) to answer “where has all the money gone?” tweeted Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.

The Supreme Court on Friday is scheduled to hear the air pollution matter in which the Union government as well as Punjab and Delhi government are likely to present their view.

A day before the top-court’s hearings, AAP sources said the Kejriwal government agreed to have artificial rains in Delhi on November 20 with technical support from IIT Kanpur. This, however, will depend on approval from the Union government. Delhi ministers will fan out from Friday to check implementation of anti-pollution measures.

(Published 09 November 2023, 15:50 IST)

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