The Supreme Court on Saturday shot a volley of questions at the Centre seeking its response on measures taken to ensure that farmers do not burn stubble and rather provide it to industries through an effective market linkage network.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that it needs a solution to stop stubble burning and also effective measures to control it.
Mehta, who was elaborating on the steps taken by the air quality management commission to abate air pollution in NCR and the adjoining areas, replied that he never intended to say that only farmers were responsible for pollution.
At this juncture, Justice Chandrachud said: "For farmers, the problem is incentivisation, and not enforcement... You cannot enforce these things."
Justice Kant told Mehta that small farmers are very poor and not in a good financial position to afford machines to facilitate in-situ crop residue management.
He pointed out that stubble can be used for several other purposes such as as fodder for sheep and cows.
Mehta said two lakh machines have been made available, which are 80 per cent subsidised and they are provided through cooperative societies.
Justice Kant said: "I am a farmer, CJI is a farmer, we know it. We want to know how many such cooperative societies have been set up and how many machines have they supplied. What is the subsidy given?"
Mehta submitted that marginal farmers were getting these machines at free-of-cost. But Justice Chandrachud shot back by saying that "give us some figures, say a sample of four districts. What is the total capital cost? Total outlay required?"
Justice Chandrachud said: "Between thermal power plant and the farmer, what is the arrangement? Who is supposed to collect (stubble)?", to which Justice Kant added, "Once paddy is harvested, the farmer is under compulsion to prepare the land for the next crop."
Justice Chandrachud further queried what economic incentives has Centre made for these farmers. Mehta, seeking time for response, said: "All questions will be answered on Monday".
The Chief Justice said 70 per cent causes of pollution are other than stubble burning, and asked: "What steps you have taken. What steps do you want to take?"
Mehta replied one of the major causes of pollution is dust, "it is kind of 40:60".
The bench also asked to "call an emergency meeting of all stakeholders" as Delhi's air quality is under the severe category and will continue to be under this category for another couple of days.
Mehta replied that a meeting has been scheduled to address air pollution in the capital.
The bench also asked Mehta to tell the Punjab and Haryana governments to take steps to hold stubble burning for a few days.
After a detailed hearing, the top court adjourned the matter for further hearing on Monday and asked the Centre to inform it about steps to bring down air pollution level in the capital.
The top court was hearing a plea by a minor boy seeking directions against stubble burning and other factors associated with high pollution level in Delhi-NCR.
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