Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Friday said the Centre’s “blunt” refusal to provide cash incentives to Punjab farmers to avoid stubble burning “has impacted the entire campaign [against stubble burning] in the State”.
Speaking at a press conference here on Friday, Mr. Rai said the Punjab government had come up with a plan to provide financial assistance of ₹2,500 per acre to its farmers to dispose of crop residues without harming the environment.
“The farmers had demanded financial support [for not burning stubble]. The State government then prepared a proposal stating that [the governments of] Delhi and Punjab would give ₹500 each with the Centre contributing the remaining ₹1,500,” said Mr. Rai.
“However, the way the Centre has bluntly denied [the request]... it has impacted the entire campaign [against stubble burning] in the State. But the Punjab government is conducting awareness campaigns and we hope that there will be fewer fire events this year compared with last year. There would have been a big impact [on stubble burning] had the Centre provided support,” he also said.
Hitting back, BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said that despite being in power in both the States, AAP “has done nothing” about the problem of stubble burning and has instead “tried to pass the buck to the Centre in the name of this proposal”.
According to Punjab government officials, the Centre rejected the proposal saying it has been providing subsidised machinery, such as happy seeders, rotavators and mulchers, to the State’s farmers for the in situ management of paddy straw.
Mr. Rai said that the proposal was conceived after the Punjab government officials held exhaustive consultations with the State’s farmers, who had asked for a cash incentive to help them cover the cost of fuel used in operating the machinery for the in situ management (mixing crop residue in soil) of paddy straw.
The proposal was then sent to the Centre and the Commission for Air Quality Management in July, he added.
(With inputs from PTI)