The dark stillness of the fields after sunset is broken by the brilliance of fire. On a patch of land, some two kilometres from the highway near Shahbad, a town in the Kurukshetra district of Haryana, a solitary farmer uses his pitchfork to scoop tufts of burning stubble and spread the fire. “I have to burn the field today,” he says. “Tomorrow’s prediction shows rain. I had planned to not burn my field this year and employ labour to remove the stubble, but then came this warning. If the stubble gets wet in rain, I won’t be able to plant wheat next week!” He politely declines to tell us his name. He doesn’t want to get into trouble. They’ve been imposing fines for crop burning.
Although the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning crop burning across India came in 2015, the pressure to combat this practice was put on Delhi’s neighbouring states only after pollution in the city reached near apocalyptical proportions in the winter of 2016. Researchers have put a major part of the pollution blame on crop burning.