Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India, Justice Arun Mishra, expressed serious concern over the tardy progress towards achieving zero stubble burning to reduce air pollution said that the time has come to fix the responsibility of the officers from the top to bottom.
He was chairing the Full Commission follow-up hearing through video conferencing on the Delhi air pollution matter, which the Commission had taken up suo motu last year on the basis of media reports and followed up with the Chief Secretaries and other senior officers of the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and U.P. on the progress made.
He said that we have to rise to the situation as millions are choking due to air pollution and cannot allow it to be so perpetually. The poor farmers cannot be blamed solely for stubble burning some of them do not have the financial resources to buy or hire machines to remove stubble in a short span between the harvesting of one crop and the sowing of the other. The states besides giving subsidies to farmers should also make arrangements to keep them in reserve for those farmers who cannot afford costly equipment. Providing subsidies for the machines cannot be a solution for all.
Likewise, the Commission said that the option of in situ management of the crop waste is also time-consuming and the farmers may not be able to delay their sowing for the next crop. The Commission has asked the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to submit status reports on affidavits on the machines supplied to the farmers on a daily basis to achieve the targeted procurement of machines in the next 15 days. They are also expected to submit status reports on machines which are proposed to be reserved in every district for those farmers who cannot afford it.
The Commission also said the crop rotation or diversification from other paddy varieties to Basmati may reduce the reasons for the pollution but may not end the problem. The governments will have to share their responsibility.
In addition to hearing the progress on measures taken to reduce air pollution in Delhi, the Commission has also been seeking progress reports on the action taken on the compliance its Advisory from all the state governments and Union Territory Administrations. Today, besides Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh it also heard Karnataka, Odisha Himachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep.
The Commission has asked the state governments to submit a road map within 15 days ensuring to end human intervention in cleaning of hazardous septic tank and sewage cleaning in order to discharge statutory obligations. The Commission said that the officers may be open for criminal proceedings in dereliction of duties enjoined upon them. They have also been advised to utilize funds under the Centre’s “SafaiMitra Suraksha Challenge” (SSC) campaign.
During the video conferencing hearing held with the representatives of the Govt. of NCT of Delhi, the Commission said that since there is a Swachh Bharat campaign all over the country from 1st October, 2023 onwards, it would like to have a joint inspection on 03.10.2023 with the concerned officials of Govt. of NCT of Delhi, MCD, Railways to get a clear picture about the physical condition of the stretch whether the garbage, plastics and waste have been lifted/removed from Azadpur to Narela railway line stretch.
With regard to the upgradation of ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs), it was further desired by the Commission that it would like to have a joint inspection of Narela, Bawana and the remaining hotspots of NCT of Delhi. The Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi is directed to comply with the aforesaid direction of the Commission by nominating a responsible officer to carry out the exercise and report to the Commission by tomorrow i.e. 30th September, 2023.
A notice be also issued to the Chairman, the Railway Board to depute a responsible officer to carry out the joint inspection of the stretch between Azadpur to Narela by tomorrow. A Nodal Officer from the office of Principal Secretary, Department of Environment & Forest, Govt. of NCT of Delhi will also coordinate with the joint inspection team.