Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Take steps on straw burning: HC to Punjab, Haryana

To handle the rising menace of straw burning, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has called upon the state governments to encourage cardboard, paper and packaging industries to open up their centres in rural areas for farmers to sell the straw.
The directions were passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Mahesh Grover on two petitions filed by Captain Sarabjit Singh and advocate Jagmohan Singh Bhatti.

The High Court has also suggested setting up of cattle feed industry, as both paddy and wheat straw could be used for fodder.

The petitioners had sought formulation of a policy by Punjab and Haryana to ban the burning of wheat stubble, paddy straw and dry leaves.

"We will firstly underline that this is an issue where promulgation of a law banning such activity possibly may not yield the desired result. A fiat or a diktat by an authority necessarily involves penal consequences upon its violation and booking the farmers for violating the ban of burning of wheat straw/paddy straw would hardly be a situation which any government or a citizen would want. It has also to be understood that a farmer feeds a nation and, therefore, holding him responsible alone would not be an idea to relish," reads the judgment.

The judgment further reads, "The issue, therefore, has to be seen from the perspective where the society and the government, who are beneficiaries of the industrious activity of a farmer, take proactive measures by providing solutions to a farmer which are affordable and readily available and thus save both the farming community as also the general public from the hazards ensuing the polluting activity of burning straw."

Referring to technical steps such as easy availability of rotavator, zero-till drill and happy seeder, the Bench remarked "these are measures which provide alternatives to burning but are expensive and, therefore, the governments are required to take steps to make such machines available to the farmers. The governments can formulate and grant subsidies, long-term loans and encourage manufacturers in making these machines more competitive, which will result in fall of prices and make the machines more affordable".

Also, the High Court has suggested that the government can consider giving them incentive to manufacture the machines at affordable prices.

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