Farmers of the Mehma Serja village of Punjab’s Bathinda district were caught in a controversy Saturday after they forced a team of government officials to burn the stubble lying in a field on Friday.
The team of the Public Works Department had gone to the village to stop stubble burning Friday late afternoon. However, as soon as the team reached, the members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Sidhupur unit gathered and gheraoed the officers.
They raised slogans against the government. Harpreet Singh, a PWD officer, was even forced to use a match stick to burn the stubble. The Bathinda district administration informed that only after Singh lit a mound of straw was he allowed to leave.
When Harpreet protested and refused to burn the stubble, the protesting farmers said, “You can say that the farmers compelled you to burn stubble.”
Harpreet was also asked to give it in writing that he won’t stop the farmers ever again but Harpreet didn’t do so.
A video was also shot which later became viral on social media. Officials later said the field is owned by Ram Singh, a farmer.
Baljit Singh, a leader of the farmer union, who was present at the spot, confirmed that the incident took place. Singh said, “Yes, the officers had come yesterday (Friday) and such a video has been circulating on social media.” However, he refused to comment any further.
Bathinda Deputy commissioner Showkat Ahmad Parray when contacted said, “I am aware of the incident. It shouldn’t have happened. An FIR is being lodged in this case. Union leaders have apologised and disowned the act. Complete district unit of the farmer union met with me at my office and apologised to the officials also.”
The incident comes in the backdrop of union leaders gathering at many places in Punjab and burning stubble.
Hasan Singh, chief agriculture officer of Bathinda, added, “We do face resistance from farmer unions when our teams go to the villages to stop them from burning stubble. We can appeal them or can issue challans for violations. Rest, the farmers must understand that protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility.”
Stubble burning in Punjab
Punjab till November 2 recorded 11,262 fire incidents out of which, as per the pollution board’s report, officials have visited only 5,265 sites of which 3,375 were related to crop burning.
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In Bathinda alone, out of 405 fire incidents, only 108 sites have been visited of which 81 have been found to be related to crop burning.
So far, no FIR has been filed in Bathinda but officials are in the process of filing one for stopping Harpreet and the PWD team from discharging their duties, said sources.
Environmental compensation worth Es 2.6 crore has been imposed on the state in 1,037 cases out of which only Rs 4.4 lakh has been recovered. In Bathinda, in just seven cases, the compensation amount runs to Rs 20,000 but no recovery has been made till date.