Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 30
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) has “strongly opposed” the Centre’s decision to bring in an Ordinance for setting up a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Area, terming it “yet another undemocratic and anti-farmer ordinance.”
Through this Ordinance “the Centre once again overrides the states and arrogates to itself the power to punish farmers”, they said.
Calling it a “means for the Central government to absolve itself of responsibility”, the AIKSCC called the Commission “a supra-authority whose orders prevail over the democratically elected state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the Central and State Pollution Control Boards”.
“It is empowered to direct the actions of the state governments but cannot compel the Centre to provide resources to implement the solutions. The Centre did not want a Supreme Court-appointed committee which would have made the Centre answerable too,” it added.
On whether states, including Punjab, may have issues given its jurisdiction, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had on Thursday said the issue of paddy stubble, which contributed anywhere between 4 to 40 per cent to air pollution, “will not remain a problem in next three-four years with the kind of research, innovations and solutions in the pipeline”.
Officials added that the aim is to replace “inadequate, haphazard and temporary commissions, authorities, etc. appointed either judicially or administratively. For the first time a regulatory mechanism for stubble burning is put in place”.
The CPCB, SPCBS will continue to deal with the subject, they added. However in the case of conflict the orders of the commission will prevail.
Though according to the AIKSCC the Commission has wide-ranging powers to issue orders to any person, officer or authority who will then be bound to comply with the orders, and this includes prohibition or regulation of any process or operation, and stoppage of the supply of electricity, water or any other service.
In addition, any non-compliance of the directions of the Commission shall be punishable with a term up to five years, and a fine extending up to Rs 1 crore.
“AIKSCC sees this Ordinance in the context of the inordinate focus on the paddy stubble burning as the source of Delhi’s air pollution and the farmers being designated the culprits,” said Punjab members.
“This Ordinance further reinforces the fears of farmers that the Central Government is more interested in adopting coercive measures instead of finding real solutions,” they said.
“In the past couple of years, thousands of cases have been registered against farmers for stubble-burning, resulting in a lot of harassment instead of providing them support to address the real issues.
“The fact is that government policies and laws have pushed the farmers of Punjab and Haryana into this cycle of paddy and wheat with barely three weeks in between, leaving farmers with little practical choice except burning the stubble,” they added.
Stating that there is no representative of farmers’ associations in the Commission, the AIKSCC also asked the Centre to withdraw the “hastily promulgated Ordinance and hold extensive consultations with farmer organisations and state governments so that a better, more participatory and effective framework is put in place to address the issue of air pollution”.