SC suggests no minimum support price for farmers burning stubble

Punjab Advocate-General Gurminder Singh on Tuesday took the court through the steps taken by the Punjab government to tackle the issue

Stubble Burning

Attorney-General R Venkataramani also concurred with this view, saying that minimum support price policy was a complex issue

Bhavini Mishra

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested excluding farmers burning their stubble from the purview of the minimum support price (MSP) to discourage them from doing so.

“Why should any purchase be made under the minimum support price (MSP) system from people violating orders and lighting fires, regardless of how this affects the people, the children? The stick must follow the carrot. Why should people who, despite all observations of the court, despite counselling, continue violating the law be allowed to benefit monetarily? People who have been identified as having lit fires should not be allowed to sell their products under this system. There should be something that pinches.

It’s not about one state or the other, or the Union. Let’s not get politics into this,” the Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia observed.

The court was hearing a batch of pleas raising concern over the deteriorating air quality in Delhi. It had on November 7 directed the governments of Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi to take steps to immediately stop stubble burning by farmers in the states.

The court had asked the chief secretaries of these states to meet on November 8 and submit a report by November 10. It said the responsibility of preventing crop burning would be on the local station house officers, the directors general of police, and chief secretaries of these states.

Punjab Advocate-General Gurminder Singh on Tuesday took the court through the steps taken by the Punjab government to tackle the issue.

“We have collected about Rs 2 crore as environmental damages from farmers who are still violating the orders. We have created 618 red entries, which debar farmers from taking benefits in their jamabandis. Almost 1,000 first information reports have been lodged. As of yesterday (Monday), there is a protest on the roads ... They are blocking people from accessing the fields to put out the fires. This is a law and order situation and we are dealing with it. We are going and extinguishing fires, even at midnight. As of yesterday, six districts in the state went completely fire-free,” Singh said.

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Justice Dhulia suggested prohibiting farmers burning their stubble from growing rice. “It’s a suggestion. The MSP policy cannot be done away with. It’s a sensitive issue. You can only pick persons, but you cannot do it as a policy perhaps.”

Justice Dhulia, however, added: “The farmer is being made a villain. And he is not being heard. He must have some reasons for burning the stubble ...”

Attorney-General R Venkataramani concurred with this view, saying that minimum support price policy was a complex issue.

“The land in Punjab is becoming arid slowly because the water table is getting depleted … Bluntly, the state government and the Union government must forget the politics of it and apply their mind to see how to stop paddy cultivation.”

At this point, Amicus Curiae Aparajita Singh said: “Delhi will continue to suffer. Nothing is complex, Your Lordships. If they want to do it, they will do it.”

The amicus curiae asked whether the Punjab government had established custom hiring centres (CHCs).

CHCs supply farm implements to small, marginal and poor farmers at subsidised rates on hire.

First Published: Nov 21 2023 | 6:53 PM IST

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