Following the Supreme Court’s directive instructing the Central and Punjab governments to collaborate in addressing farm fires and tackling the recurring pollution crisis, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann asserted that it is a collective responsibility to combat this issue.
“We are actively engaged in addressing the issue, conducting meetings, and planning for the upcoming batch of stubble. This could potentially serve as a solution to mitigate stubble burning. In written submissions to the court, we have advocated for extending Minimum Support Price (MSP) to other crops as well,” he stated.
Highlighting the fertility of the land, he remarked, “Our soil is rich enough to cultivate a variety of crops such as sunflowers, maize, and lentils. It’s a collective responsibility that goes beyond just the government’s efforts.”
In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court emphasized the concerning situation in Punjab, noting that the extensive cultivation of paddy is causing a significant decline in the water table. The court highlighted the irreparable damage to numerous wells and suggested, in line with the submission by Punjab’s Advocate-General Gurminder Singh, that a phased transition away from paddy cultivation in favor of alternative crops is necessary. The court endorsed the idea of exploring the provision of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for these alternative crops by the Centre.
Advocate-General Gurminder Singh, in a submitted report, revealed that Punjab cultivates 31 lakh acres of paddy, a crop not originally native to the region. He pointed out that the introduction of paddy cultivation was incentivized by the Centre under the Food Security Act for use in the public distribution scheme. However, the report underscored the environmental consequences, stating that farmers, enticed by incentives, found paddy cultivation lucrative. The report further highlighted the current predicament where the water table has significantly depleted, necessitating the digging of wells to depths of 700 m to 1000 m for drinking water.