While stubble burning has been prominent in the 90’s it has been met with criticism in the last two decades, with restrictions increasing throughout the last five years. There are many reasons to consider the banning of stubble burning, while its proponents have argued that there are other problems bigger. Taking into considerations the past few years, stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh has caused air pollution emergency in the neighbouring Delhi. The National Green Tribunal had fined Delhi for not initiating an action plan for incentivising farmers to stop them from burning agricultural remains.
As another stubble burning season picks up pace, many other factors need to be taken into consideration. The elephant in the room would be the coronavirus pandemic currently taking citizens’ lungs for a joyride. This microscopic terrorist affects the lungs and related parts and as pollution increases from stubble burning, the proportionate damage is obvious. Another problem is the already rampant pollution problem. Before corona struck, IQAir Air Visual’s 2019 Air Quality report mentioned that out of the 30 cities with worst air pollution, 21 are from India. New Delhi ranked on the top spots with an air quality that is 20 times dangerous than the one World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe. All things considered, when lockdown began in the capital, the air quality got better thanks to factories shutting down and cars staying home. Things didn’t last long as everything returned to the status quo, at a fast pace too.
To curb the whole problem, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and former Supreme Court Judge Madan Lokur have plans of their own. Kejriwal finds political action important, stating that political will is required to change the situation. He has proposed the use of a bio decomposer that will convert stubble into other products including manure, which will be given to farmers free of cost. Implementation has to be addressed since the centre is also planning a similar venture.
On the judicial side, Chief Justice of India Sharad A Bobde has appointed Justice Lokur as a one-man committee to monitor and prevent stubble burning in the states. The latter has sought the help of student organisations such as the National Cadet Corps, National Service Scheme, Scouts and Guides to observe and report stubble burning while patrolling highways and fields. Existing teams and organisations will report to the committee and the latter will file a report with the court. Justice Lokur had headed the Green Bench and he has been closely monitoring the stubble burning for a few years.
While all of these are necessary steps toward addressing a serious problem, the steps must follow up with stronger policies and alternative practices so that the farmers have some support. However, everyone must also keep in mind that stubble burning isn’t Delhi’s only problem and the focus on farmers must not take eyes away from those polluters at home.