Home > News > Farmers fret over penal provisions in new law on air pollution, experts say the Ordinance aims to curtail judicial intervention | India News

Farmers fret over penal provisions in new law on air pollution, experts say the Ordinance aims to curtail judicial intervention | India News

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Farmers fret over penal provisions in new law on air pollution, experts say the Ordinance aims to curtail judicial intervention | India News 2

NEW DELHI: Farmers’ groups, which are on the warpath against the newly enacted central farm laws, on Friday expressed concern over the ordinance to deal with air pollution in Delhi-NCR and adjoining areas. They questioned whether the new commission would put farmers in jail and impose heavy penalty for stubble burning at a time when there was no economically viable solution available to them to deal with paddy straw.
Though officials believe the issue will be handled by the respective State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), they don’t rule out the possibility of stricter action by the commission, which has overriding powers in such cases.
“The commission is expected to be constituted under the ordinance by November 6. All action plans and orders of the now dissolved Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority will, however, continue,” said an official.
Since the Centre put a regulatory mechanism for stubble burning for the first time through this ordinance, it is expected that the commission will intervene if the situation aggravates in the absence of enforcement on the ground.
Besides stubble burning, the second immediate concern of the yet to be constituted statutory body will be the issue of firecrackers that also contribute to air pollution during Diwali. “Although the Delhi government has already initiated its plan to ensure that only ‘green’ firecrackers are manufactured, stored and sold in the city, the Commission may intervene in case of violations,” said another official.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of several farmers’ organisations, meanwhile, opposed the ordinance, saying the Centre would override the states and arrogate to itself the power to punish farmers through this law.
Demanding its withdrawal, the Committee urged the government to hold consultations with farmer organizations and state governments so that a better, more participatory and effective framework is put in place to address the issue of air pollution.
Reacting on the Ordinance, experts too had flagged similar concerns and even questioned the concept of such Commission in a federal setup on Thursday.
“Restrictions imposed to control air pollution impacts labourers and dealing with stubble burning requires incentives… Importantly, no farmers body has been allowed to be co-opted as members while representatives of commerce or industry can be co-opted as members,” said environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta.
Clean air expert at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Anumita Roychowdhury, said, “It is also not clear how this super centralised system will work within the autonomy of the federal framework and how the state governments can go beyond to raise the level of ambition.”
She noted that though the new move brings the attention to the public health crisis that it deserves, the Ordinance seeks curtailment of judicial intervention.
“The executive now faces the real challenge of pushing the most difficult and inconvenient solutions needed to get clean air… So far, the region could implement solutions and counter resistance to change with the backing of the Supreme Court. Now the Commission has to make the deep sector reforms, massive investments and compliance a reality,” said Roychowdhury.
Dutta believes that the main purpose of the Ordinance is to improve the air quality only in the National Capital Region (NCR). “Unless the central government sets up similar Commissions in other polluted regions of the country, it violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and discriminates against those who are not in the NCR. Clearly, there are equally, if not more, polluted regions beyond the NCR,” he said.

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