Intensifying attacks on the peasantry and agriculture and continuing its fascist drive to concentrate all powers in the hands of Central Executive controlled by it, RSS-BJP Govt. has promulgated “THE COMMISSION FOR AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION AND ADJOINING AREAS ORDINANCE, 2020”. The Ordinance provides for everything except for controlling pollution in the National Capital Region. The Ordinance forms an omnibus commission and packs it with bureaucrats and representatives of Industry, the biggest facilitators and contributors to the pollution in the National Capital Region.
The Ordinance attacks peasants in the name of controlling pollution and specifically targets peasants of Punjab and Haryana clearly for their opposition to the Central Acts handing over control over agriculture and allied activities to foreign and domestic corporate. It is a patently vindictive act which is obvious from the fact that Commission set up by this Central Ordinance is limited to National Capital Region while pollution is also at alarming levels in several other urban areas of India. It covers states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP, which are epicenters of the present peasant agitation against Central Agriculture related Acts.
Vindictive nature of RSS-BJP Govt.’s action is also clear from the suspension of the movement of goods trains in Punjab when the peasants withdrew their blockade of freight trains. The same Govt. was earlier holding peasant blockade for stoppage of goods trains. Stoppage of goods trains is being shown by the Govt. to be the reason behind rise in the prices of fertilizers and lack of procurement.
The Commission has been given wide powers of regulatory, administrative and judicial nature. It arms the Central govt. with powers to raid any premises and also of punishments for violations of five years of imprisonment or 1 crore Rs. of fine or both for non-compliance or contravention of any provision of Ordinance or Rules made there under or non-compliance with any order or direction of this Commission (Section 14). Such draconian powers have been given to the Commission without adequate judicial safeguards.
Setting up of this Commission is a calculated attempt at further erosion of the powers of the states. It has been given authority to direct the state govts. That this has less to do with targeting pollution and more to do with targeting federalism is also obvious from the fact that the Commission has no powers to direct the Central Govt. which controls the main activities generating pollution and controls the funds needed for such a control. It has been made clear in the Ordinance that Orders of the Commission will over-ride those by the state govts. and state pollution control boards and pollution control authority of Delhi [Section 3 (6)] but not any orders by the Central Govt. or its agencies.
This Ordinance has been promulgated when this matter was being heard by the Supreme Court and the Apex Court had formed a Commission of Justice (Retd.) Madan Lokur to oversee efforts at pollution control. That Commission would have had the power to direct even the Central Govt., a situation that is not acceptable to RSS-BJP Govt. Promulgation of the Ordinance is thus also an attempt to bypass the Supreme Court. Supreme Court must not abandon the responsibility it had taken upon itself though it has stopped the setting up of above mentioned mechanism.
The whole exercise i.e. setting up of the Commission, its composition, powers and functioning is bereft of all transparency and accountability. It is meant to ensure that the real reasons of pollution are not ascertained let alone controlled. Hence it is packed by the very people whose actions have created the havoc of pollution and necessitated the need to control it. Central Govt. does not want to control the pollution but wants to control the narrative about pollution. It is to prevent the holistic approach to the problem of bad quality of the air in Delhi.
For past several years, ruling class parties have been blaming the peasants for the problems of poor quality of the air in the Capital. Parties ruling at the Centre and in Delhi are united in this attack on peasants. But this is far from truth. Before coming to the real reason, it is pertinent to note that air quality has been unprecedentedly fine during the lockdown for at least during living memory. At the time only govt. and police vehicles were on the road, all construction and industrial activities were at standstill. Is there yet any study required to study the real culprits of the pollution in Delhi. Dharashtras in different wings of the state would not like to even note this what of mentioning it. Does it not show who are main culprits behind poor air quality?
A number of studies have shown that the main culprits behind the poor air quality in the national capital region are vehicular traffic, construction activities and industrial activities. These are the biggest contributors of the pollutants. Even burning of the municipal solid waste (MSW) contributes more to the pollution in Delhi (nearly 8-12% round the year) and for this authorities in Delhi are responsible. But nobody dares touch these sharks- automobile majors, giant refining companies, big construction companies or big industries, obviously not those in power who treat number of vehicles as a sign of prestige. Peasants are obviously the soft targets for them and the rising peasant protests of the peasants have given Central govt. added reason to target them.
Peasants and their organizations have made a number of suggestions for stoppage of stubble burning and demanded that the Govt. bear the cost as the peasants are unable to bear it. Govt. which has turned a deaf ear to their demand for remunerative prices, want to put additional burden on them. It is part of the conspiracy to throw the peasants out of land and agriculture and hand it over to the companies. Then govt. will then subsidize it as is being done in the western countries. Peasants are a stumbling block in their service of foreign and domestic corporate.
That this Ordinance has an oblique purpose is also proven by a statement of Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on 16 October. He said that 95 percent of the air pollution in the national capital is due to local factors and only four percent is because of stubble burning. This has been quoted by commentators.
In their drive to target peasants, Govts.- Central and Delhi in this case- even forget the elementary fact that before the smoke travels to Delhi it must be affecting peasants’ own houses and villages. But probably their health and well being is not in the reckoning. Why peasants should not like or be entitled to healthy air in their own villages and that would automatically take care of smoke coming to Delhi? In fact no peasant has received even the amount announced by the Govt. though it is inadequate. On the other hand cases have been foisted against thousands of peasants for stubble burning resulting in a lot of harassment.
It has been clear to everyone that Govt. should take measures to help peasants and also small entrepreneurs in tackling pollution. These two are the biggest providers of employment in India. Govt. has resources to do so as it is showering lakhs of crores on their billionaire friends. Govt. must pay the peasants to bring stubble to designated centres and must provide for treatment of industrial waste in small and medium industries. Govt. would do well to control the number of vehicles in the capital region and enforce environmental guidelines on construction activities.
Blaming stubble burning and targeting peasants would not solve the problem of bad quality of air in Delhi. It is a political offensive against peasantry and peasant agriculture. Ordinance should be seen in conjunction with three Agriculture related Acts against whom peasants are up in arms.
Peasants who are agitating against the three Acts also reject this Ordinance. Let all democratic and progressive forces, all justice loving people should support the peasant struggle and condemn this Act which is an attempt to criminalize peasantry. RSS-BJP are past masters in this game of criminalizing their opponents- those who stand in their way of serving their corporate supporters.
Reject the Ordinance! Support Peasant Struggle!
CPI (ML)-New Democracy
October 31, 2020