• Government has promulgated an ordinance to deal with stubble burning.



  • Early harvest and unavailability of labour due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to more farm fires this year.
  • The root cause of the present stubble burning problem in Northern India is actually the extensive use of big ‘Combine Harvesters’ in large parts of Punjab, Haryana & Western UP, since the labour cost for manual harvesting is rather high.
  • Although, these big combine harvesters lead to huge savings for the farmers in terms of labour costs and time, these machines cut the plant and harvest the grains from the top part of the plant, thus leaving behind a much longer stem part of the plant, that remains standing on the
  • On the contrary, in traditional manual harvesting by sickle (Hansiya), the plant is chopped off from the bottom, leaving only a very small root part of the plant underneath the ground.
  • The farmers in other parts of the country who are doing manual harvesting, in order to prepare their fields for the next Rabi crop, simply plough the land after harvesting and fill the field with water for a few days, during which period the roots of the plants get decomposed and actually enrich the soil by increasing its fertility.
  • On the other hand, in areas of Northern India where harvesting is done by combine harvesters, due to the larger size of the stubble left behind by these machines, it is not possible for this stubble to mix well with the soil and get fully decomposed as fertile soil during the limited period available between the Kharif and Rabi crops.
  • In such a scenario, as a short cut the farmers, who are keen to prepare their fields quickly for the next Rabi (usually wheat) crop and further since it is un-economical for them to get the stubble removed manually, simply burn it on the field itself.



  • Focus should be on developing and improving the design of Combine Harvesters that do not leave the stubble behind. This can be easily done by the Combine Harvester manufacturers by slightly tweaking the design of their machines with a modified cutter that chops of the plant from the bottom, nearer to the base and does not leave behind the stubble.
  • Incentivise the farmers for not burning the stubble, by providing economic value for this crop residue or stubble, which may be converted into either cattle feed or fuel (in the form of briquettes). The government may consider setting up “Agri- waste Collection Centres” alongside the “Paddy Purchase Centres”, where the farmers may sell their agri-waste at a reasonable price and earn some additional income and are not tempted to burn it.
  • Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) or Farmers’ Co-operatives may be supported for purchasing of this agri-waste/ crop residue from the farmers and later selling it to industries that convert it into cattle feed or fuel briquettes.
  • The industries which are converting this agri-waste/crop residue into wealth in the form of cattle feed or fuel briquettes, may also be suitably incentivised and subsidised.
  • Encourage and incentivise the farmers to go for early paddy, so as to give them enough time to harvest and thereafter prepare their fields for the next Rabi crop.
  • Encourage and educate the farmers to go for alternate fruit and vegetable crops, instead of paddy, that not only consume less water but also give better economic returns. It makes no sense to promote crops like Paddy (that consume a lot of water), in water scarce areas.
  • Another possible alternative is the Pusa bio-decomposer, developed by the scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which turns crop residue to manure in 15-20 days by accelerating the decomposition process.



  • The Ordinance provides for constitution of a Commission for better co-ordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the national capital region (NCR) and adjoining areas. Adjoining areas refers to areas in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh where any source of pollution may cause adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
  • Functions of the Commission: Functions of the Commission include: (i) co-ordinating actions taken under the Ordinance by concerned state governments (Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh), (ii) planning and executing plans to prevent and control air pollution in the region, (iii) providing a framework for identification of air pollutants, (iv) conducting research and development through networking with technical institutions, (v) training and creating a special work force to deal with issues related to air pollution, and (vi) preparing various action plans such as increasing plantation and addressing stubble burning.
  • Powers of the Commission: Powers of the Commission include: (i) restricting activities influencing air quality, (ii) investigating and conducting research related to environmental pollution impacting air quality, (iii) preparing codes and guidelines to prevent and control air pollution, and (iv) issuing directions which will be binding on the concerned person or authority.
  • Composition: The Commission will consist of: (i) a Chairperson, (ii) two Joint Secretaries from the central government, (iii) three persons with knowledge and expertise related to air pollution as independent technical members, and (iv) three members from non-government organisations. The Commission will also include ex-officio members: (i) from the central government and concerned state governments, and (ii) as technical members from CPCB, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and NITI Aayog. Additionally, the Commission may appoint representatives of certain ministries as associate members.
  • Selection Committee: The appointment of the Chairperson and members of the Commission will be done by the central government on the recommendations of a Selection Committee. The Committee will be headed by the Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as the Chaiperson. Further, the Committee will include the Cabinet Secretary and the Minister in-charge of: (i) Ministry of Commerce and Industry, (ii) Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and (iii) Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Penalties: Any non-compliance or violation of the provisions of the Ordinance or orders and directions of the Commission is punishable with imprisonment of up to five years or fine of up to one crore rupees or both. All appeals against the Commission’s orders will be heard by the National Green Tribunal.



  • Winter season creating Temperature Inversion Layer about a few hundred feet above the ground, which blocks the pollutant gases and particles from escaping into the higher atmosphere, thus turning Delhi and the NCR into a virtual gas chamber.
  • During Diwali, despite ban, firecrackers were burnt on large scale leading to pollution.
  • Vehicular pollution, burning of garbage etc. also contribute to pollution. Clean air is necessary for health of citizens especially elders and children. Clean air is part of Right to life.


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