Can you permit people to die due to pollution: SC chides states, Centre over toxic air


As air quality in Delhi-NCR continues to be in the poor’ category, the governments of Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi came under fire from Supreme Court for lapses in managing schemes to mitigate air pollution.

With satellite data showing that crop burning was being conducted across 44 districts in Punjab, the Amarinder Singh Government came in for a lashing by the court, particularly after the chief secretary present in court claimed that the state did not have adequate funds to provide machinery to all farmers to harvest the crop stubble.

The special bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta criticised the state over self-declared bankruptcy.

"You have money for everything else but not for poor farmers. But let us make it clear self-declared bankruptcy is no excuse," said the bench.

Agriculture is the backbone of the country and interest of small and marginal farmers must be protected and plea of lack of fund cannot be ground for the government to neglect them, observed the apex court bench.

The court has now directed the Central government to step in to create a comprehensive financial policy to tackle the problem of crop stubble burning.

Over a three-and-a-half-hour hearing, the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi were hauled up individually and asked to give details of the steps taken so far to tackle the air pollution issues.

"We are not bothered about whether CM or PM is monitoring the situation... what have you actually done on the ground?" asked an irate court after the UP chief secretary was unable to answer its direct questions.

The bench also pulled up the Haryana government for delay in implementing the earlier directions passed by the Supreme Court regarding farmer sensitisation and dealing with crop stubble.

When the chief secretary informed the court that the Haryana government had started holding sensitisation meetings at the Gram Sabha level, the incensed bench said that the Haryana government was "worse than Punjab".

"Sensitising is happening now? You are worse than Punjab at least they started sensitisation in January, you are doing it now? Now, the time has gone to make them aware. You have to take positive steps to purchase this stubble, said the bench.

After its harsh observations on Tuesday against the farmers for violating people’s right to life, the bench on Wednesday softened its stance towards the farmers, noting that the farmer was "in trouble in every way".

"Every way, the farmer is in trouble. If they burn, there'll be challan, if they don't, they lose the crop. If they don't sow, the country loses agricultural produce," observed the bench.