As the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government in Punjab continues to face a stiff challenge in dealing with the old and persisting menace of stubble burning amid the ongoing paddy harvesting season, the politics surrounding the issue has also intensified between Haryana and Punjab.
Stubble burning, which takes place close to autumn every year, remains a significant contributor to air pollution, especially across northern India, including the national capital, New Delhi. The AAP, which is in power in Delhi, has over the years invariably blamed Punjab for its air pollution during autumn and the early months of winter. This year, however, with AAP Governments in both Punjab and Delhi, the barbs of the blame game barbs have taken a different turn.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has blamed the BJP Government at the Centre for targeting Punjab’s farmers on the issue of stubble burning, alleging that the BJP’s “anti-farmers” and “anti-Punjab” stance has been exposed as the party “hates Punjabi farmers” since they had protested against the now repealed farm laws.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, however, hit back saying AAP leaders first announced freebies and then expected help from the Central Government to fulfil their “fake promises”. He advised Mr. Mann to follow Haryana’s footsteps and incentivise farmers for stubble management.
Mr. Lal said the incidents of stubble burning in Haryana have come down by 25% this year. “So far, in the year 2022, only 2,249 incidents of farm fires have been reported in Haryana, whereas in Punjab these incidents have increased by 20%. Till now, 21,500 farm fire incidents have been reported in Punjab,” Mr. Lal said on November 2.
“Like Haryana, Punjab should also make arrangements for stubble management. A provision of giving an incentive of ₹1,000 per acre has been made by the Haryana Government to those who do not burn stubble. Also, ₹50 per quintal incentive amount and subsidy on straw management equipment is given to the farmers for making stubble bales, among other measures,” he said.
“AAP leaders first announce freebies and then expect help from the Central Government to fulfil their fake promises. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal earlier blamed the farmers of Punjab and Haryana for the pollution in Delhi, and now his entire blame game has shifted to only Haryana as his party has come to power in Punjab.
“The same is the case with the Yamuna in Delhi, in which pollution levels are so high that it [the river] has become like a drain. Instead of doing petty politics, the AAP Governments in Delhi and Punjab should do some work in public welfare,” Mr. Lal alleged, adding that incidents of stubble burning were being monitored by satellite and there was no doubt that the Punjab Government had “completely failed” in farm fire management.
Government data based on satellite imagery show that in the ongoing kharif season, from September 15 to November 3, as many as 24,146 cases of farm fires have been reported in Punjab.
The Punjab Chief Minister had pointed out that only three cities in Punjab figure among 32 cities of north India with poor Air Quality Index (AQI). “But the BJP and the Centre have unleashed a slanderous campaign against the hard-working and resilient farmers of the State by squarely blaming them for environmental hazards,” Mr. Mann alleged.
He said that BJP was silent over far worst AQI in Faridabad, Manesar, Gurgaon and Sonipat (in Haryana); Gwalior and Indore (in Madhya Pradesh), and other States where the saffron party is in power.