Don’t blame Punjab for Delhi’s pollution, says Capt Amarinder Singh at HTLS

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said his state has nothing to do with Delhi’s current air pollution.

“You keep blaming Punjab for the pollution. This morning I couldn’t come from Chandigarh by chopper because of the pollution in Delhi and Punjab had bright sunshine. So we are not giving any smoke from Punjab. I don’t know where the smoke is coming from.. it is coming from within this area,” Singh said at the 17th Hindustan Times leadership Summit.

The chief minister said there is a need to find ways to dispose paddy straw which farmers in Punjab usually burn in October and November and which have been blamed for the pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

“I have 13 million tonnes of rice which has just been harvested. I have got 26 million tonnes of paddy straw and unless we find a solution for that paddy straw what does the farmer do? I have got 70% farmers who have less than 5 acres of land out of which half of them have less than 2 acres. They cannot survive and you cannot ask them to do something, “Captain Amarinder Singh said.

He said his government has been forced to borrow money to fight stubble burning.

“We have told the Supreme Court that the solution is that the govt of India should give Rs 100 a quintal more so that money could be utilised for extra operations post harvest and the court said Punjab should pay. Where is Punjab going to pay from? It is the government of India we asked for the money and it has been put on us so we are now paying and we don’t have money. We are borrowing to pay,” he said.

A sudden spike in stubble burning after Diwali had raised questions on the efficacy of a raft of steps taken by the state government to curb the menace.

Farmers had earlier blamed the delayed paddy harvesting as the reason behind straw burning because it left them with little time between harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat. Since handling paddy straw is tedious process, many farmers find burning them an easier option to clear the fields for the next crop.

Punjab had set a target of distributing 19,000 subsidised machines to farmers for management of stubble but could provide only half of that before harvesting. Non-availability of machines to small farmers left them with little option but to resort to stubble burning.

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