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Farmers in Punjab, Haryana defy ban on stubble burning

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Punjab

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.

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Tremendous efforts made to catch absconding former minister: Bihar DGP

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Manju Verma

Patna | Under fire from the Supreme Court over its inability to arrest absconding former minister Manju Verma, the Bihar Police on Friday asserted that it was making tremendous efforts to nab the suspended Janata Dal (United) leader.

The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the state police for failing to arrest Verma in connection with an Arms Act case, which cropped up in course of the CBI probe into the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal. It directed Director General of Police K S Dwivedi to appear before it in person on November 27 if she was not nabbed by then.

In reply to a query, the DGP said Friday attempts were being made to secure her arrest. “We are making tremendous efforts.” Dwivedi said no time-frame could be given for the arrest of any person wanted in a criminal case. “Though we appreciate the concern expressed by the Supreme Court, we hope to trace her very soon.”

The officer said some objection was raised from Verma’s side before a court in Begusarai district when they tried to initiate proceedings for attaching her property. “We are working to get that resolved,” he added. The former minister had last week moved an application before the Begusarai court, through her lawyer, pleading that she not be treated as an absconder as she was not evading arrest, but trying to seek relief as per law.

Verma had stepped down as the minister for social welfare in August, following reports that her husband, Chandrashekhar Verma, had close links with Brajesh Thakur , the prime accused in the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal.

During a raid by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at her in-laws’ residence in Begusarai, a huge quantity of ammunition was recovered, following which the agency lodged an FIR against the couple. The former ministers’ pleas for anticipatory bail have been rejected by the lower court as well as the Patna High Court. Her husband surrendered before a Begusarai court last month after several weeks of dodging the police.

An embarrassed JD(U), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, said Thursday it had suspended her from the primary membership of the party. Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Hindustani Awam Morcha have accused the ruling party of shielding the absconding two-time MLA.

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Sabarimala row : Police have asked me to return to Pune: Trupti Desai

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trupti desai

Kochi | Amid over a 12-hour stand-off with devotees and others, including BJP workers, at the airport here vowing not to let her proceed to the Sabarimala shrine, activist Trupti Desai said police have asked her to return to Pune. The development comes even as the doors to the Lord Ayyappa temple opened for the “Mandala Makkaravillakku” puja.

The activist, who reached here around 4.40 am along with six young women en route to the hill temple, has been unable to come out of the airport, with the protesters saying her group would not be allowed to proceed to the Sabarimala temple. Desai said police officers held a meeting with her. “Police have requested me to return to Pune,” she told reporters. Desai said she will announce her decision by 6.30 pm.

Protesting local BJP leaders at the airport said the devotees, including women, would not let Desai and her colleagues to come out of the airport and proceed to Sabarimala temple. They alleged that Desai and her team came here to violate the centuries-old custom of the temple that prevented entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50. Talking to the media over the phone, Desai earlier said she would not go back without darshan at the Lord Ayyappa temple.

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#Watch: “Swamiye Ayyappa” chants echo outside Cochin airport as Trupti Desai waits inside

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trupti desai

The protestors who are conducting a sit-in protest outside the airport warned Trupti Desai that she can only enter the temple “over their bodies”. 

 

Cochin| The crowd of protesters outside the Cochin airport is swelling since the morning to oppose the activist Trupti Desai from entering Sabarimala. The protestors who are conducting a sit-in protest outside the airport warned Desai that she can only enter the temple “over their bodies”.

On the other hand, Trupti Desai vowed to not go back without the Darshan of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala Temple. However, several Hindu organizations have indicated at statewide protests if she tries to enter the hill shrine.

Currently, Desai along with a group of women activists accompanying her is waiting at the Cochin airport. The stalment has continued since morning. The Kerala police tried to take her out safely through cargo area but it failed as the protesters caught a wind of the move.

Watch: Devotees chant “Swamiye Ayyappa” outside Cochin airport during the protest.

 

Watch: Activist Trupti Desai waits at the Cochin airport

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