INDIA HAS FINALLY rewarded Punjab's farmers. And the pronouncement on the doings and character of Punjab's farmers have come an authority no less sublime than the Supreme Court of India.
Also, if the period of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi was the worst that the country saw, the Supreme Court has now found who is creating an even bigger problem.
And it is ready to trade: The 1975 Emergency was better than the situation created by Punjab's farmers now.
On November 4, just eight days before the Sikh community marks 550 years of Guru Nanak who spent his last days at Sri Kartarpur Sahib, cultivating the land, the Supreme Court of India was hearing a case regarding the grave situation created by smog and pollution in Delhi and elsewhere. Here is what Justice Arun Mishra, heading a two-judge bench with Justice Deepak Gupta, said:
"No farmer can be said to have the right to burn stubble because they don’t have the time before sowing the next crop to wait and turn it into manure… Maybe, it’s their compulsion. But they can’t create tort. It’s violation of Article 21 rights. They are telling others that they can die…So we have no sympathy for them.”
Forget about the idea of pleading with, cajoling or educating the farmers to not resort to burning paddy stubble or helping them financially or making available the required machinery, as directed by the National Green Tribunal. The Supreme Court has finally announced it has "no sympathy
" for farmers if they resort to burning stubble.
So, farmers are violating Article 21 of fellow citizens. They are telling other people — for who they thought they have been working hard to produce massive amounts of foodgrain — that they can die.
So, the top court of the land is saying that yes, it could be the compulsion of the farmers. And it says it does not care if it indeed is their compulsion. It says these farmers do not care that other people die. And the Supreme Court has no sympathy for someone who is doing something under compulsion.
People have killed other people in self-defence and found sympathetic law, courts and judges. But to have the top court declare that it has no sympathy for hard-working farmers resorting to paddy straw burning under compulsion is a new for anyone well versed with the state of farmers today. It is true that fortunes of some farmers, like Parkash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh, are continuously improving, but most are in dire straits.
And then comes what amounts to discussing a deal. Which was better? Which was worse? The Supreme Court said: "This is worse than Emergency. That Emergency was better than this Emergency.”
So, here is the Supreme Court's latest defence of Emergency. Yes, the 1975 one was bad. This one is worse. Clearly, bad is preferable over worst. How far is the next line of argumentation from this point -- Impose the same 1975 Emergency and throw into jail the farmers who burn paddy stubble? Presto! Problem solved.
Besides, why care if they die. After all, they are the people who do not care that other people die, and all they care about is that they have to prepare their fields to sow potato or wheat. This is the wisdom being dished out by the Supreme Court.
The top court is very clear that what was happening "cannot occur in a civilised country” and that "we are making a mockery of everything.”
The Supreme Court said: "This is worse than Emergency. That Emergency was better than this Emergency.”
Justice Mishra said the Air Quality Index was 500 even inside bedrooms in Delhi. The situation inside the bedrooms of Punjab's farmers has not ever elicited such startling reactions from the judiciary where, too many farmers have been found missing in bed and discovered hanging from the fan hook.
In a state where rural indebtedness and farm economy stagnation has stopped making news and farm suicides of farmers and agricultural labourers have been pushed aside from the public discourse and merely elicit a sense of ennui, the focus is now on the farmer not realising his responsibility towards the environment. The farmer has been crying hoarse that all he needs is a little hand holding, a small subsidy and he will take care of the paddy straw.
The chief minister claims to have written letters to the Centre asking for such help. The agricultural economists have been unanimously advocating such bonus on a per acre or per quintal basis. The NGT has in the past directed the state government to extend all help to farmers. The government has not lived up to the NGT's directives on this count but is merrily following the other aspect of the same directives, opting for punitive steps. Claims of making machinery available to farmers have been refuted by all farm organisations.
Umpteen number of voluntary organisations have stepped into the void, trying to handle the situation and extending help and knowhow to farmers to prevent stubble burning. Some in Punjab have taken upon themselves to clear the fields of the farmers by actually getting volunteers and machinery at their own expense to do the work.
People have killed other people in self-defence and found sympathetic law, courts and judges.
But after all of this, Punjab's farmers now have a certificate from the Supreme Court: They are people who are destroying the environment. They may have compulsion. They are violating the other people's right to live. They do not care if other people die.
"There cannot be large scale evacuation from Delhi. People have to work in Delhi
,” the Supreme Court said. Needless to say that farmers, too, have to work in their fields. And for that they need to clear the field after harvesting paddy. There is a very small window of time available to farmers. And that forces them to burn the paddy straw.
Also, why should the Supreme Court be bothered to know that farmers in Punjab are virtually forced to sow paddy because that is a crop whose procurement is backed by the government through MSP and a proper procurement infrastructure?
India needed to stuff its granaries with rice and that's why Punjab was pushed towards paddy. Punjab's farmer has paid a very high cost in terms of environment, and is now being seen as a killer, a community that does not care if other people die.
The Supreme Court has also opted for the 'danda' route of punitive fines. Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been directed to appear before it on November 6.
The situation inside the bedrooms of Punjab's farmers has not ever elicited such startling reactions from the judiciary where, too many farmers have been found missing in bed and discovered hanging from the fan hook.
Justice Deepak Gupta, said: "Who is responsible? The state governments are responsible. They are only interested in electioneering. They are allowing people in neighbouring places to die."
It directed the Chief Secretaries, District Collectors, Tehsildars and police stations "to ensure that not even a single incident of stubble burning take place henceforth.”
So, now your local patwaris and tehsildars and SDMs and deputy commissioners and the local police havaldar have the power, directly on the authority of the Supreme Court, to do what you can well imagine. Or can't.
All they are required to care about is that "not even a single incident of stubble burning take place henceforth.”
If anyone still burns, if a fire is spotted, if the ban is violated, the violator and officials from Chief Secretary to Gram Pradhan will be held responsible.
At Punjab Today, we strongly advise the farmers to please pay heed to everything that the Supreme Court says and not burn paddy straw and understand how they and their actions have been described by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Its word is often considered the last word on a matter. That last word about Punjab's farmers has been pronounced.
You can celebrate that alongside the 550th Gurpurab of the Guru who cultivated the land at Sri Kartarpur Sahib.
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