The Supreme Court came down hard on the Punjab and Delhi governments Tuesday – and offered a measure of support to farmers from the former state – as it continues a marathon hearing into a clutch of petitions about the toxic air that blankets and chokes the national capital every winter.
A bench of Justices SK Kaul and S Dhulia ordered the states – both ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party – to take action against the burning of agricultural waste, which adds significantly to Delhi’s AQI crisis.
“This is the most polluted November in six years… the problem is known (and) it is your job to control it,” the court told the two states, and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh – ruled by the BJP.
The court was, however, more sympathetic to the condition of farmers in Punjab, who have come under severe scrutiny (again) for burning agricultural or crop waste, or stubble. “The farmer is being made a villain… and he is not being heard from. He must have some reason to burn this stubble.”
This is not the first time the Supreme Court has pointed out that farmers – who have been accused by all sides of contributing to the air quality crisis – have not been represented in the hearing.
The court also suggested the Punjab government offer farmers incentives to not burn stubble. “They should learn from Haryana regarding incentives given to farmers,” the court observed.
Every winter, the air quality in Delhi and surrounding regions plunges to extremely toxic levels, triggering widespread health scares and forcing schools and colleges to shut down for days. This morning the AQI was at 323, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality, central government data said.