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Toxic Delhi air spurs Pb CM to urge Centre to provide for 'stubble management bonus' to farmers

Toxic Delhi air spurs Pb CM to urge Centre to provide for 'stubble management bonus' to farmers

(Eds: Adding details) Chandigarh, Nov 2 (PTI) With toxic air turning Delhi into a "gas chamber", Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday partially owned up the blame for the situation for being unable to stop farmers fully from burning stubble in the state and urged the Centre to give a separate bonus to farmers to manage farm residue.Singh made the pro-farmer proposal in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal persistently blaming stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab for rise in Delhi's air pollution.No Indian, and definitely no person in Punjab, is oblivious to the misery of our brethren in the national capital, said Singh in the letter, expressing anguish over Delhiites having to breathe the severely polluted air. How can a country be called developed when its capital city has been reduced to a gas chamber, not by any natural disaster but by a series of man-made ones? he asked.Adding a personal touch to Delhi residents' sufferings, Singh said his "own children and grandchildren were living in Delhi and sharing the plight of the lakhs of people in the national capital as a result of the toxic air enveloping the city".He said the prevailing situation has exposed the hollowness of our claims of being a progressive and developed nation.Making it clear that he had "no intention of washing his hands off the Punjab's responsibility" behind the air pollution in Delhi, Singh admitted that the stubble fires, supported by the winds blowing in wrong direction, were contributing to the toxic levels of air pollution in Delhi.He said Punjab had tried to enforce the law against stubble burning to the maximum extent possible and was even penalising farmers, even though it goes against my conscience to punish a community that has suffered, and continues to suffer, at the hands of an ungrateful nation.But that, he added, does not really deter farmers from resorting to burning of paddy straw to keep their pathetic margins from falling further.Singh said he had personally suggested to the Prime Minister and other Union ministers on several occasions to provide for a separate bonus at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal to facilitate stubble management by farmers.Singh rued that the Centre ignored his repeated proposals for a separate bonus to farmers to manage their stubble. "Perhaps your government does not feel that it is the right solution and that would explain its failure to respond positively to my request, Singh said in his letter to the PM."But then, what is the solution that can end this grave problem once and for all? asked Singh.Is it not your government's task, Mr Prime Minister, to search for that permanent solution, in consultation with all stakeholders, including Punjab, Delhi and Haryana? he asked. Putting the onus on Delhi as well for curbing the air pollution, Singh noted that data from several independent agencies had pointed out that large-scale industrial pollution, the traffic overload, the excessive construction activity taking place in Delhi were equally, if not more, to blame.But, said Singh, he took no solace from this data, nor could this blame game help any of them to assuage our own guilt in a matter of such serious national consequence. The harsh truth is that while all of us are busy conveniently passing the buck to one another, Delhi's people are reeling under excruciating misery, and are facing one of the worst ever health disasters in the nation's -- possibly the world's -- history, he wrote.Observing that the situation continues to aggravate while we all play ball over the people's pain and grief, the chief minister said the crux of the problem was that we have persistently and foolishly refused to rise above political considerations to launch a collective search for a permanent solution. The solutions each one of us, the so-called stakeholders, have been proffering from time to time are but knee-jerk interventions that translate into nothing more than a case of 'too little, too late' every time, he wrote.Delhi and Haryana, too, were doing what they could, in their own ways, he said, adding that the role of the Centre had remained dubious in the whole affair, even though the central government was the biggest stakeholder of national prosperity.Amarinder further wrote that he had expected the Government of India to have taken the matter in its able hands long back, to find a holistic solution to this grave problem.That, unfortunately, had not happened till date, despite even the Supreme Court expressing concern on the rapidly deteriorating situation, he lamented.Stressing the need for the Centre's urgent intervention, the chief said, "After all, what is at stake goes way beyond our petty political ambitions." PTI VSD RAXRAX