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Farmers in Punjab, Haryana defy ban on stubble burning




Chandigarh | Scores of paddy growers in Punjab and Haryana continue to defy the ban on stubble burning, claiming they are “compelled” to do so in the absence of any financial support from the government for farm waste management.

Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is a major cause of air pollution not only in the two states but also in the national capital. Governments of the two states are pinning hopes on farm mechanisation for the effective management of crop residue but the use of farm equipments, growers say, is not the “best solution which will take care of just minuscule area” of paddy.

With paddy growers being blamed for causing air pollution, farm experts and farmers’ outfits said the community is a “soft target” and the “short-sighted” approach of policy makers in the government has not only “failed” to address the concerns of the growers but also to achieve the task of zero stubble burning. Punjab has so far seen over 330 incidents of crop residue burning while Haryana has witnessed 701 incidents of stubble burning, officials said.

Though officials claimed reduction in paddy residue burning this year, farmers said the number of stubble burning incidents was lesser as paddy harvesting was yet to pick up in the wake of higher moisture content in crop caused by incessant rains last month.

“Farmers do not want to burn paddy residue. But they are compelled to burn stubble as they do not have any other feasible and cheap option,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal.

Rajewal said the use of farm equipments for crop residue management was not an ideal solution as it is putting additional financial burden on small and marginal growers whose condition was already pitiable.

“Farmers who are in debt trap are committing suicide and now the government is taking penal action (imposing fine) against growers who burn paddy residue. Farmers have become soft targets for the authorities despite the fact that just 8 percent of air pollution caused by farm residue burning,” Rajewal said.

Every year, Punjab and Haryana are blamed for rising air pollution and smog caused by crop residue burning by growers. The two states annually generate 220 lakh tonne and 65 lakh tonne of paddy stubble, respectively. Farmers find stubble burning as an easy option as a way of its disposal in the wake of limited time available for next crop sowing.

The situation is likely to aggravate this year as the window period for managing the paddy crop residue has got shortened by at least 10 days because of rains last month that delayed paddy harvesting and some farmers said they will resort to stubble burning overtaking the farm mechanization route. “Any delay in next wheat crop will lead to drop in yield and it will cause financial losses to farmers,” said Rajewal.

Farm experts said the best way to manage the crop residue is to award bonus as compensation to farmers for management of paddy straw.

“Giving Rs 200 per quintal to growers is the only option available to the government for the management of crop residue. What is the harm in giving money to growers when a substantial sum of money is spent on crop procurement,” asked noted farm expert Devinder Sharma. “If a farmer burns residue even after receiving money for its management then you take action against him/her,” he said.

Moreover, farm mechanisation is not a solution where vegetable crop like potatoes are to be grown, said BKU president Gurnam Singh Chaduni.

Farm experts described distributing farm equipment such as Happy Seeder, paddy straw chopper’ cutter, mulcher etc., to growers will add more to their cost. “We have calculated that the use of machines is putting an additional cost burden of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per acre on the farmers, which they are unable to afford,” Sharma pointed out, adding that machinery would deal with just four percent of total paddy area.

The farmers’ union also accused the government of not complying with the National Green Tribunal order which had directed it to supply machinery free of cost to farmers owning less than two acres of land.

“For those who have land more than two acres but less than five acres, the machinery should cost only Rs 5,000 and those who have land more than five acres, the farm mechanisation cost should be Rs 15,000,” said Rajewal.

Farmers also accused farm equipment manufacturers of increasing the cost of machinery after the central government provided funds to Punjab and Haryana governments for distributing machinery at a subsidy. “Earlier rotavator was available at Rs 85,000 now it costs Rs 1.30 lakh. Similarly, cost of other machinery has also been increased,” Rajewal said.

For promotion of agricultural mechanisation for in-situ management of crop residue, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 695 crore for Punjab and Rs 137 crore for Haryana. Both states are giving 50 percent subsidy on buying machines to individual farmers and 80 percent to cooperative societies.


Rajasthan High Court asks Robert Vadra and his mother to appear before ED on 12th February

News Desk




The Rajasthan High Court on Monday asked Robert Vadra along with his partners in the Skyline Hospitality Limited, including his mother Maureen Vadra to appear before the Enforcement Directorate on 12th February to record their responses to the allegations of money laundering by the firm.

A bench from the Jodhpur high court gave this direction after ejecting its earlier order that averted the agency from taking any forcible action against Vadra and others.

A bench consisting of Justice P S Bhati, while asking Vadra and others to appear before the ED, however, refused to vacate the stay on their arrest and refused any kind of liberty to the ED to take them into custody.

Justice Bhati further gave a clarification that if the need be, the Enforcement Directorate will have to move the court separately to seek permission for arresting them.

Rajdeep Rastogi, the solicitor general, who is appearing for the ED, stated it to the bench that the agency has already started off an inquiry against the owners and the partners of Skylight Hospitality Limited on a complaint of money laundering against the company.

Rastogi stated, “The company moved the court against this inquiry and obtained an order that no coercive action would be taken against them during the investigation”.

The Enforcement Directorate then challenged the court seeking vacation of this order on the account that neither an FIR was lodged in the matter nor any accused was named in the case.

Rastogi argued in the court, “It is just a fact-finding inquiry which is at an initial stage, so the court should not intervene in the matter at this stage”.

Admitting the arguments of the solicitor general, the court removed the “No Coercive Action” clause from its earlier order.

Based on a mutual consent of the lawyers from both the sides, the bench ordered owner and partners of the firms, including Vadra and his mother to appear before the ED and cooperate with the agency in the inquiry.


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Legal perspective being sought for quotas for upper castes in Bihar: Nitish Kumar

News Desk




Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister today on Monday declared his government will implement quotas for the economically-backward among the unreserved category once they get a legal perspective concerning the suitable modalities.

Nitish Kumar stated that a legal perspective was being sought as to whether the new quotas, which have been brought forth by way of a recent constitutional amendment and are in addition to the existing reservations, could be introduced in the state through an executive order or an Act passed in the legislature.

He also stated that we are bound by the top court judgement, which placed a cap of 50 percent on the quotas for the educationally and socially backward, but added that he is in the support of the demand for increasing the limit to make reservations proportionate to the population of the respective caste groups.

He added, “But opposition parties which are voicing the demand have no clue as to how to go about it. In my view, there should be a fresh tally wherein the separate populations of social segments like SCs, STs and OBCs is taken into account. Based on its report, the nation can move towards ensuring proportional representation for various castes”.

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PM Modi to inaugurate Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas convention in Varanasi on Tuesday

News Desk



Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday will inaugurate the 15th convention of the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi.

It is for the first time that the three-day long convention is being organized from 21st January to 23rd January in place of 9th January to permit the participants for visiting the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and attend the parade of Republic Day here.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office stated that the theme of the convention for this year is ‘role of the Indian diaspora in building new India’.

The chief guest of the convention will be Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth, whereas a member of Parliament of Norway, Himanshu Gulati will be the special guest. Further, member of Parliament of New Zealand, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, will be the guest of honour.

The decision to celebrate the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas was taken by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the first event was celebrated on 9th January 2003 in Varanasi.

As a matter of fact, January 9 was picked to be the day for the celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya since it was this day in the year 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi had returned from South Africa to India.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is now celebrated once in every two years and gives a platform to the Indian community overseas for engaging with the government and reconnecting with their roots said the statement.

Pravasi Bharatiya Sammaan, is discussed on the selected overseas Indians for their imperative contributions to different spheres both abroad and in India.

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