Supreme Court Asks Delhi’s Neighboring States to Stop Stubble Burning

The Supreme Court directed the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi to ensure the immediate cessation of stubble burning as a critical measure to safeguard the lives and health of people. Justice stated that pollution should not be treated as a political game, where one state shifts blame to another depending on the ruling political dispensation. This pollution amounts to the murder of people’s health. Children in Delhi are suffering from health issues due to this pollution. As a long-term measure, the Punjab government will incentivize farmers to switch from paddy cultivation to traditional crops like millet by offering them the minimum support price (MSP). Punjab has been one of the significant contributors to the large-scale burning of paddy stubble. The state is also witnessing a drastic decline in the water table due to extensive paddy cultivation covering 31 lakh acres. Satellites detected 2,914 residue-burning events in the six studied states, including 2,060 in Punjab, 65 in Haryana, 87 in Uttar Pradesh, zero in Delhi, 47 in Rajasthan, and 655 in Madhya Pradesh, totaling 29,641 cases between September 15 and November 6. An official analyzing the stubble burning data received from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) said that if the air quality index in Delhi remains the same despite a reduction in stubble burning cases by over 35 percent in Punjab and Haryana, then the problem seems to lie elsewhere. While there should be no stubble burning at all, it’s unfair to blame the farmers all the time. Farmer leaders argue that farm fires can be nearly eliminated if the necessary machines are provided to process crop residue. However, officials find it challenging to provide machines to all farmers, considering that the need becomes redundant after the paddy harvesting season. Additionally, officials mentioned providing over Rs 90 crore to farmers in Haryana this year, as 940 lakh acres have been registered to receive incentives under a government scheme. The Haryana government offers an incentive of Rs 1,000 per acre for refraining from stubble burning. However, farmer leaders argue that this amount is too low, as it costs Rs 5,000 per acre to dispose of crop residue by making bales.

The procurement price of milk with 3.5 percent fat and 8.5 percent SNF in Maharashtra has dropped from Rs 35 per litre to the present Rs 28-29 per litre. Except for cooperative dairies, private players have begun adjusting prices, leading to unrest among dairy farmers. Constant price corrections in milk procurement by dairies have made Diwali a bitter experience for dairy farmers. As dairies struggle with increased production and low demand, they have cautioned about further price reductions if urgent measures are not taken by the state or Centre. Cooperative dairies procure 30 percent, while private dairies procure 70 percent of milk. Demand peaks during summer when production is low, and in winter, when animal milk production increases, demand dips. Dairies convert excess milk into SMP and white butter, which they use when demand surges, especially during summer. Presently, the country holds a reserve of around 2.80 lakh tonnes of SMP. However, exports are not feasible due to international prices hovering around Rs 220-230 per kg compared to the production cost of Rs 250-260 per kg, unless supported by government subsidies. The Dairy Farmers and Processors Welfare Association has urged government intervention, either through direct subsidies to farmers or government procurement.

The Karnataka Milk Federation has proposed a price hike for Nandini milk, suggesting an increase in milk and curd prices starting from the New Year. Federations are facing losses, necessitating a revision in milk prices. The rate of Nandini milk is lower compared to milk prices in other states, particularly neighboring states where it ranges from Rs 48 to 51 per litre. The price of KMF’s Nandini milk was raised by ₹3 per litre on September 1. However, Amul has increased its prices by 12 per litre within ten months, from March 2022 to February 2023. Milk producers’ unions have submitted a report detailing the burden caused by increased production costs.

In Andhra Pradesh, all dairy farmers are favoring Amul, which is in partnership with the AP government under the JaganannaPaalaVelluva Programme. Amul offers the highest prices for milk to farmers and refutes allegations made by opposition leaders regarding neglect faced by milk farmers. So far, there have been 3.73 lakh women milk farmers in the state. Amul collects an average of 2.73 lakh litres of milk per day from 4,113 women cooperative societies.