Chandigarh: Punjab on Monday reported 634 farm fires with farmers in many areas continuing to set ablaze paddy straw despite police making persistent efforts to prevent stubble burning. The Punjab Police said it has registered 1,084 FIRs against erring farmers and imposed penalties worth Rs 1.87 crore in 7,990 cases since November 8.
With the police continuing to make efforts to prevent stubble burning, Punjab witnessed 634 farm fires, the lowest since Diwali, said Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arpit Shukla. Shukla is the police's nodal officer with a mandate to keep a check on stubble burning. "This is consecutively for the third day that the state witnessed significant downfall of at least 28.8 per cent stubble burning cases," he said.
Punjab recorded 637 and 740 farm fires on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, Shukla added. Of the 634 farm fires reported on Monday, Fazilka recorded the highest at 168, followed by 98 in Moga, 97 in Ferozepur, 62 in Muktsar and 55 in Bathinda. On the same day in 2021 and 2022, the state recorded 283 and 368 farm fires, respectively.
With the fresh cases, the total number of farm fires recorded from September 15 till November 20 jumped to 35,093, according to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data. Of the total, Sangrur has recorded the maximum number of stubble burning cases at 5,546, followed by 3,264 in Ferozepur, 2,863 in Bathinda, 2,515 in Moga and 2,226 in Barnala.
Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is considered to be one of the reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in the national capital region in October and November. Amid a spike in pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court on November 7 directed Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure crop residue burning was stopped "forthwith", saying it could not let "people die" due to pollution.
Following the top court directive, Punjab Director General of Police Gaurav Yadav appointed Shukla as the police's nodal officer to monitor action against stubble burning. In a statement, Shukla said red entries have been made in revenue records of 340 farmers. As many as 1,085 flying squads of police and civil officials have been keeping vigil of stubble burning. Police officials have also been holding meetings with farmer leaders at the district and block levels to sensitise them about the Supreme Court's directive.
At least 2,587 such meetings have been held since November 8, it said. Shukla once again urged the farmers to cooperate and not burn stubble. Meanwhile, air quality indices remained in the 'very poor' and 'poor' categories in many parts of Haryana and Punjab. The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Haryana's Sonipat was recorded at 365. In Sirsa, the AQI was recorded at 342, in Faridabad at 335, in Fatehabad at 331, in Bhiwani at 303, in Jind at 285 and in Gurugram at 272.
In Punjab, Bathinda reported an AQI of 302, followed by 270 in Amritsar, 247 in Jalandhar, 220 in Ludhiana, 214 in Rupnagar, 209 in Patiala, 190 in Mandi Gobindgarh and 150 in Khanna. The Union Territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, recorded an AQI of 143. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.