Stubble burning: Punjab govt suspends four agriculture officers for dereliction of duty

Chandigarh, Oct 30: The Punjab government on Sunday suspended four officials of the Agriculture Department as stubble burning continued unabated in the agrarian state with 1,761 fresh incidents.

The development came as the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution rose to 26 per cent, the highest this year, with forecasters saying that slow wind speed and an increase in stubble burning, especially in Punjab, may make it worse.

Following directions of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal placed four agriculture officers under suspension with immediate effect for dereliction of duty, the release stated.

The suspended officials are Chief Agriculture Officer (Sangrur) Harbans Singh, and agriculture officers Satish Kumar (Samana in Patiala), Harpal Singh (Chohla Sahib in Tarn Taran) and Bhupinder Singh (Patti in Tarn Taran), it said.

According to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data, 1,761 farm fires were reported in Punjab on Sunday.

Of these, Sangrur recorded the highest number of farm fires at 323, followed by 249 in Patiala, 122 in Fatehgarh Sahib, 114 in Bathinda, 110 in Tarn Taran, 107 in Ferozepur and 100 in Ludhiana, the data showed.

The Punjab government has adopted a zero-tolerance policy against stubble burning and has been organising campaigns across the state to sensitise farmers not to burn stubble, the release said.

The CM had categorically asked agriculture officers to work at the grassroots level to ensure crop residue is not set ablaze, it said.

But the government found these officers were not adhering to the directions, it added.

During the suspension period, these four officers will report to the office of the director of Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Mohali, the release stated.

From September 15 to October 30, 13,873 incidents of stubble burning were recorded in Punjab, the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data showed.

During the same period in 2020 and 2021, the state had reported 25,986 and 10,229 stubble burning incidents, respectively.

Punjab had recorded 2,799 and 1,373 active fire incidents on October 30 in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

After Diwali, the state has seen a rise in the number of stubble burning incidents, with farmers setting crop residue on fire to clear their fields for sowing the next crop.

Major farm fires are now being witnessed in Sangrur and Patiala in the Malwa region.

The Commission for Air Quality Management had on Thursday said the increased incidents of stubble burning in Punjab this year “is a matter of serious concern”.

The air quality in parts of Punjab was recorded in ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ categories, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

The air quality index (AQI) in Amritsar, Khanna, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Mandi Gobdi Gobindgarh and Patiala stood at 210, 171, 277, 187, 173 and 179, respectively.

In parts of Haryana, the air quality was recorded in ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories, the CPCB data showed.

Faridabad recorded an AQI of 383, Manesar 357, Bahadurgarh 345, Gurugram 326, Charkhi Dadri 319, Bhiwani 311, Sonipat 298, Rohtak 296, Jind 283 and Ambala 231.

Chandigarh, the common capital of Punjab and Haryana, recorded an AQI of 182.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’. (PTI)