It is that time of the year when farmers in Punjab throw caution to the wind.
With the stubble-burning season underway, three weeks before Diwali, residents in the National Capital Region (NCR) are already bracing for a prolonged period of smog and breathing difficulties.
Usually, in Punjab, the stubble-burning season begins around a month before Diwali, with the number of fires peaking around the festival day.
As of now, a number of fires is being reported from the Majha region, mainly, but in the coming days, observers are fearing stubble-burning from the Malwa region as well.
For the two weeks prior to 8 October, several stubble-burning events have already occurred as farmers gear up for paddy harvesting.
Until 9 October, more than 700 fires have been reported in the state. The only blessing in disguise was the rainfall and cloudy weather that arrested the fires for a couple of days.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government which took over in March has failed to curb the burning even after its lofty promises.
The discussions with the government have made no headway, with the farmers demanding Rs 2,500 per acre as a relief to not burn stubble. Due to the breakdown of the talks, there is a steady increase in fires in the Malwa region as well.
Each year, before Diwali, the narrative is peddled, especially in NCR by the AAP government under Arvind Kejriwal that firecrackers cause pollution and therefore, there must be a complete ban on their storage, trade, transfer, and sale.
This resulted in an announcement as early as September from Delhi's Chief Minister.
The forced ban, without any research or rationale, has become a reference point for other state governments and the judiciary.
A day after Diwali, as is the case every year, the air quality is at its worst in New Delhi, and the depletion was attributed to the firecrackers, not the peak of stubble burning in Punjab.
In the last few years, annually, from local news outlets to global, Diwali and firecrackers have become an easy target for the resulting smog in Delhi.
Everyone, conveniently, seems to forget that there is a total ban on crackers in NCR, and while there was little defiance, the ban was more or less successful, so the origins of the smog should be questioned.
The false attribution to Diwali and firecrackers must be called out for a number of reasons.
Firstly, this unchecked attribution becomes a reference point for the succeeding year for the governments to impose a new set of bans which has an economic cost attached to it.
Two, this anti-Hindu propaganda, masquerading as environmental activism, is then amplified and used to dilute other festivals like Ganesh Puja and as was the case this year, Dussehra.
Three, it gives a free pass to the ones actually responsible for the pollution across the year, for governments and judiciary are too busy chest-thumping their ordered bans on firecrackers to realise the actual origins of pollution and the real culprits on the ground, especially during the weeks around Dussehra and Diwali.
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