Punjab: Farm Fires Continue Unabated, Push Delhi's Air Quality To Worst This Year

The BJP is lashing out at Punjab government and state's ruling Aam Aadmi Party, accusing it of being in a 'deep slumber' over polluting farm fires.

Paddy stubble burning

Farm fires have continued unabated in Punjab despite criticism and efforts at awareness, driving the air quality in Delhi to the worst this year on Tuesday.

Farmers burn farm stubble in Punjab every year, which worsens the air quality in North India, particularly in Delhi, as smoke and polluted air from Punjab travels to other places. 

A total of 1,842 cases of stubble burning recorded on Tuesday even as the state's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has been drawing the ire of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Delhi recorded the air quality index (AQI) of 424 at 4 pm on Tuesday, worst since December 26 last year when it was 459.

NASA's satellite images showed a dense cluster of red dots denoting farm fires in Punjab and parts of Haryana, and a layer of smoke blanketing huge swathes of the Indo-Gangetic plains from east Pakistan to east Uttar Pradesh.

In Ludhiana district, the government has so far imposed Rs 2.47 lakh in fines on farmers who burnt crop residue. Besides, 79 red entries have also been made in revenue records. Once a red entry is made in revenue records, a farmer may not be able to mortgage or sell the land.

Earlier on Tuesday, the BJP targeted the AAP government over the rising stubble burning cases and asked it to wake up from its "deep slumber".

Slamming AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the BJP pointed out that he used to target earlier Punjab governments for failing to control farm fires and blame the state for causing pollution in New Delhi.

"Why is the Delhi CM staying mum now?" asked BJP's Punjab unit general secretary Subhash Sharma.

BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh also blamed the AAP government for its "abysmal failure" in checking stubble burning in the state. He said more than 16,000 incidents of farm fires had been recorded in Punjab, reflecting the "inefficiency and insensitivity" of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's government to address the problem. It also showed how "pathetic" it was to environmental issues in the region. 

With the fresh incidents, the cumulative farm fire cases from September 15 to November 1 reached 17,846, according to data from Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre.

The state had reported 33,175 and 14,920 farm fire cases during the same period in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Of the 1,842 farm fire incidents, Sangrur recorded 345 cases - the highest in the state. Ferozepur recorded 229 cases, Patiala 196, Bathinda 160, Tarn Taran 123, Barnala 97 and Muktsar 91, the data showed.

Despite a massive awareness exercise by the state government to dissuade burning of crop residue, the farmers continued to burn paddy straw to clear the fields for sowing the next crop -- wheat and vegetables.

On Tuesday, a group of farmers in Barnala even allegedly stopped a fire brigade from dousing a farm fire.

The incident took place in an area between Kalala and Sehjra villages. When the fire fighters were trying to douse the flames in a paddy field, a group of farmers aligned with a farm union assembled at the spot and stopped them, a police official said. A protesting farmer said they took possession of the fire fighting vehicle and drove it to a nearby gurudwara. It was later released following police intervention.

On Monday, the chief secretary had instructed all deputy commissioners to send fire tenders to douse farm fires.

Neighbouring Haryana has reported nearly 2,000 cases of stubble burning so far.

Many places in Haryana on Tuesday reported air quality indices in the 'poor' and 'very poor' categories. The air quality index (AQI) in Punjab was in the 'moderate' and 'poor' categories.

The AQI in Faridabad in Haryana was at 397, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

Among the state's other areas, the AQI in Bahadurgarh was at 385, 382 Gurugram, 345 in Kaithal, 336 in Sonipat, 335 in Panipat, 299 in Charkhi Dadri, 268 each in Jind and Hisar, 241 in Ambala and 235 in Kurukshetra.

In Punjab, Amritsar recorded an AQI of 194, while Khanna and Jalandhar had a reading of 173 each, Ludhiana 299, Mandi Gobindgarh 121 and Patiala 240, according to the data.

Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, reported an AQI of 150.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor', and 401-500 'severe. 

(With PTI inputs)