CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday promised farmers to drop old cases of stubble burning against them but asked them not to set the paddy straw on fire in future.
The chief minister also promised to cancel all FIRs against farmers, registered in the state during their protests against the Centre’s three farm laws.
He also announced his government decision to raise the compensation for the loss of the cotton crop to Rs 17,000 per acre from Rs 12,000 per acre.
Channi made these promises during a meeting with the representatives of Punjab’s 32 farm bodies here.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Channi, while acceding to farmers’ demands, said his government will cancel all FIRs registered by the Punjab Police against farmers protesting against farm laws in the state.
“With this, we want that no farmer should set stubble on fire in future and the government will act strictly against the violation,” he said.
“But if any old FIR related to the stubble burning is there against anyone, we are cancelling it,” he added.
“But it is my request to farmers that they should not set the straw on fire as it causes pollution,” Channi reiterated.
Channi’s statement comes amid rising incidents of stubble burning with Punjab recording over 69,000 such incidents this season.
Stubble burning is banned but many farmers continue to flout it.
Delhi and Haryana have taken several emergency measures including the closure of schools (in four districts in Haryana) and a ban on construction work to curb air pollution.
Later while speaking on the issue of stubble burning, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said he told the CM that the decision of the National Green Tribunal should be implemented in which farmers having less than 2.50 acres of land should be given farm machinery for the management of crop residue free of cost.
Farmers were being fined but no machinery was given to them, he said, adding he also asked the state government why the central funds of Rs 375 crore for giving subsidy on the machinery has not been released.
He asserted that the number of farm fire incidents were less this season.
On the relief related to cotton crop loss due to pink bollworm attack, Channi announced a hike in the compensation amount from Rs 12,000 to Rs 17,000 per acre, besides a 10 per cent of the relief to farm labourers engaged for the picking of cotton.
Channi said giving higher compensation would cost nearly Rs 200 crore more to the state government over the already approved sum of Rs 416.18 crore for it at the rate of Rs 12,000 per acre.
He also told farmer leaders that he would personally take up the matter with the Punjab governor to withdraw the cases against the farmers who participated in the protest march towards Punjab Raj Bhawan against farm laws.
Taking a serious note of the supply of “spurious quality” paddy seeds to farmers in Moga, Channi asked the agriculture minister to take stern action against the fraudulent seed company and ordered due compensation to affected farmers.
On the “meagre compensation” to farmers for their land acquired for the Delhi-Katra-Amritsar expressway, Channi said he would personally convene a meeting of all divisional and deputy commissioners to rationalise the rates of compensation.
Referring to the demand for waiving the outstanding farm loans, Channi said he would have a separate meeting with them after detailed deliberations with the state’s Finance Department.
Expressing solidarity with bereaved families of farmers, who lost their breadwinners during farmers’ agitation, the chief minister said the state government has already provided government jobs to 152 victim families, besides giving a financial aid of Rs 5 lakh to each of them.
Talking to reporters later, farmer leader Rajewal said they also raised the issue of pension for farmers and farm labourers.
He also said the farm bodies in Punjab were against Haryana farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni who was trying to implement his “political agenda” in the state with his “Mission Punjab”.
Chaduni had earlier asked farmer outfits in Punjab to contest the upcoming state assembly polls.
Meanwhile, before the meeting with the chief minister, several farmer leaders held a protest outside the meeting venue, claiming that they were allegedly pushed by the security men when they were trying to enter the Punjab Bhawan.
They threatened not to attend the meeting till the CM tenders apology for the same.
Punjab Agriculture minister Randeep Singh Nabha came out to pacify them and later Channi met them to placate them.
Though a few pacified farmer leaders went inside with Nabha and Channi, some farmer leaders refused to attend the meeting.
Then Nabha came out again and urged farmer leaders to join the meeting.