New Delhi, Nov 10 (PTI) The burning of crop residue in Punjab and other states adjoining Delhi must stop for which a "carrot and stick" policy is needed, the Supreme Court asserted on Friday, warning "everybody's children" will suffer if authorities betray hesitancy in taking punitive action.
The apex court cracking the whip has become a necessity as preventive measures by the authorities to check farm fires gather speed only after judicial intervention, a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.
"We have lot of reports, lot of theories, lot of commissions… but at ground level nothing is happening," the apex court said, adding, "We are concerned about ground level implementation. We are not getting into anything else." The bench, also comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, was hearing a matter related to crippling air pollution that chokes the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) every winter.
Making it clear that the court wants to see the results, the bench said farm fires had to stop at any cost and there are long and short term measures for every emergency situation.
"Carrot and stick policy is necessary for stopping farm fires," it said, observing that registering FIRs against farmers for stubble burning was not a solution.
"If you are hesitant to take punitive measures, all of us, your children, everybody's children are going to suffer," the top court said, adding, "Farm fires must stop. We want air quality to be better." The bench referred to the recurrent plunge in air quality every winter.
"Then it goes to next year. The next year again the same problem starts. Six years you people have been trying to address the problem unsuccessfully," it said.
Senior advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the apex court as amicus curiae in the matter, said the authorities do not have the necessary will to control pollution.
"We want to see the results. We are not going to become technical people to handle it. How are the results to be brought?" the bench said.
On the issue of stubble burning, the bench said farmers are also part of the society, and while they have to act more responsibly, the authorities also have to be more responsive to their needs.
"But it cannot be that let the people die," it said.
Referring to the rain in Delhi and its satellite cities which brought down air pollution levels today, the bench said the God may have heard the prayers of people and provided some relief.
Asking the authorities, including the Centre and the states concerned, to find a solution to the festering problem, the bench said, "..Either we crack the whip to an extent which is impractical...but cracking of whip is necessary." "Every time it (efforts to stop farm fires) will pick up speed when we intervene, year after year," it said, and asked the authorities what steps were being taken, in long and short term, to deal with the issue.
Referring to the depleting water table in Punjab, the bench said, "You don't want to create a desert there". The comment came following news reports that groundwater levels in the state were plunging new depths due to extensive paddy cultivation.
Farm fires are lit up to get rid of the paddy stubble left after harvest.
The bench was informed about a meeting the Union cabinet secretary had with representatives of the states concerned where it was decided to take certain immediate steps to check farm fires.
"We are informed that every endeavour is being made and shall be made using a carrot and stick policy to see that farm fires are brought under control," the bench noted.
It said certain suggestions have been made during the hearing, including using technology to immediately detect the exact location of farm fires and extinguish them.
"How to proceed with it and what measures are to be taken are administrative in character and the function of the court is to make sure that the administrators perform the task assigned to them," the bench observed.
It said the court also suggested some long term steps to check farm fires like growing crops which do not leave stubble.
The matter will he heard next on November 21.
The top court is seized of a plea filed in 1985 by environmentalist M C Mehta on air pollution and the issue of crop residue burning had arisen during the hearing of the matter.
While hearing the matter on November 7, the apex court had directed Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to ensure residual crop burning was stopped forthwith. The local Station House Officer (SHO) was made responsible for checking farm fires under the overall supervision of the DGP and chief secretary. PTI ABA ANB ABA SK SK