Paddy not native to Punjab, phase it out: Supreme Court

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Paddy not native to Punjab, phase it out: Supreme Court

New Delhi: Noting that paddy is not a native crop of Punjab, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said its cultivation must be phased out and replaced by non-water-guzzling crops.

During hearing on air pollution in the Delhi-NCR caused by stubble burning, a Bench led by Justice SK Kaul agreed with Punjab Advocate General Gurminder Singh’s suggestion that paddy cultivation must be replaced by millets.

It also agreed with Singh’s submission that the Centre should consider giving MSP for other crops rather than for paddy. “Punjab is seeing a scenario where the growth of paddy is causing the water table to decline and that too drastically. A number of wells have been stated to have gone beyond redemption. It is his (AG’s) suggestion and we believe it that paddy cultivation must be phased out to be substituted with other crops and the Centre should explore the aspect of giving minimum support price for the alternative crops that are given for paddy,” it said.

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The Bench – which also included Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia — directed the Punjab government to strictly implement the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act 2009. It sought to emphasise that a switchover to alternative crops other than paddy was required so as to ensure that the problem of stubble burning does not recur.

“The switchover can occur only if MSP is not given on paddy and is given on other crops. In this context, the court noted that the Central Government is, in any case, pursuing a policy to encourage growing traditional crops,” the top court said.

“A serious consideration is required whether this kind of paddy should at all be grown and certainly, we believe, this problem is persistent with the particular paddy which is grown and the time period when it is grown,” it noted.

Pointing out that 15 years back, this problem did not exist because this particular cropping was not there, the Bench said, “We want all the stakeholders to act promptly.” The Bench also expressed concern over the misuse of paddy MSP, after the Advocate General said paddy from neighbouring states was being illegally smuggled into Punjab to claim MSP.

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