AIKSCC slams Centre's new law through ordinance to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR

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Chandigarh, Oct 30 (PTI) The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on Friday slammed the Centre for introducing a new law through an ordinance in the wake of rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR, saying it is another 'undemocratic and anti-farmer' ordinance.

The AIKSCC demanded that the Centre should withdraw the 'hastily promulgated ordinance' and hold extensive consultations with farmer organisations and state governments so that a better, more participatory and effective framework is put in place to address the issue of air pollution.

'It is another undemocratic and anti-farmer ordinance. The Centre overrides states again and gets power to punish farmers,' a AIKSCC statement issued by its central working group member, Darshan Pal, said.

The AIKSCC had earlier demanded rollback of the Centre's new farm laws, which it has dubbed as 'anti-farmers'.

Faced with rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Centre has introduced a new law through an ordinance that puts in place a powerful oversight body and provides for up to five years of jail term and Rs 1 crore fine for violators with immediate effect.

Under the ordinance released by the Ministry of Law and Justice on Thursday, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has been dissolved and replaced by a commission comprising over 20 members.

'The ordinance may be called the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020. It shall apply to the National Capital Region and also adjoining areas in so far as it relates to matters concerning air pollution in the NCR. It shall come into force at once,' it said. The AIKSCC, which claims to be an umbrella body of over 200 organisations of farmers and agricultural workers, also alleged that 'this ordinance is a means for the central government to absolve itself of responsibility because the commission is empowered to direct the actions of state governments but cannot compel the Centre to provide resources to implement the solutions'.

'The Centre did not want a Supreme Court-appointed committee which would have made the Centre answerable too,' the statement said.

'The ordinance establishes the commission as a supra-authority whose orders prevail over the democratically-elected state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, and the central and state pollution control boards...,' it said.

The AIKSCC sees this ordinance in the context of the inordinate focus on the paddy stubble burning as the source of Delhi's air pollution and the farmers being branded as the culprits, it said.

'This ordinance further reinforces the fears of the farmers that the central government is more interested in adopting coercive measures instead of finding real solutions.

'Despite the court directions to provide alternatives to farmers to manage the paddy straw, the Centre has not provided the necessary financial support to make it happen,' he said.

As per the ordinance, which was signed by the president on Wednesday, the areas where it shall be in force include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adjoining areas of the NCR and Delhi where any source of pollution is located which is causing an adverse impact on air quality in the National Capital Region.

The AIKSCC statement further said, 'In the past couple of years, thousands of cases have been registered against farmers for stubble burning, resulting in a lot of harassment instead of providing them support to address the real issues.

'The fact is that government policies and laws have pushed the farmers of Punjab and Haryana into this cycle of paddy and wheat with barely three weeks in between, leaving farmers with little practical choice except burning the stubble,' it said.

The AIKSCC stated that while the air pollution of Delhi is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, there is disproportional focus on the stubble burning issue.

'There are other, larger sources of pollution that need to be tackled instead of targeting the farmers...,' it said. PTI SUN VSD KJ