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Over 80 Punjab Farmers Arrested Over Fires That Smothered Delhi

More than 80 farmers have been arrested in Punjab for starting fires that contributed to the recent pollution crisis in New Delhi and other cities, officials said Thursday.

Each winter the post-harvest burning of crop stubble covers swaths of the region in toxic smog, which combines with car and factory emissions to turn Delhi into the world's most polluted capital.

The Supreme Court this week ordered a crackdown on illegal stubble-burning, but the fires continued across Punjab and Haryana states -- with many started at night to try and avoid detection.

A senior Punjab police officer said more than 17,000 farm fires had been reported in the state in the past three days, with 4,741 on Wednesday alone.

"More than 84 people have been arrested for violating the law. Cases have been filed against 174 farmers," the officer told AFP.

Punjab and Haryana make up a key agricultural region that produces nearly 18 million tonnes of rice each year. This, in turn, creates nearly 20 million tonnes of crop stubble -- most of which is burnt.

Authorities said more than 48,000 farm fires had been reported in the two states since late September -- a dramatic increase from 30,000 cases in 2018.

The Supreme Court ordered a complete stop to the fires on Monday and on Wednesday slammed local governments for not taking action, instructing them to pay hard-up farmers to stop burning the stubble.

"You just want to sit in your ivory towers and rule. You are not bothered and are letting the people die," said Justice Arun Mishra.

Pollution levels in Delhi remained bad on Thursday, four days after one of its worst pollution attacks in several years during which schools were closed and a public health emergency declared.

Dirty air causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths across cities each year, according to medical studies.

Tiny particles from the fires, which can enter the bloodstream and penetrate the lungs and heart, get blown over Delhi.

Is stubble burning the only option for farmers?

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Lawyers Shut Courts, Want Delhi Police Protesters Arrested

The face-off between the lawyers and police of Delhi escalated today with protesting lawyers forcing all the lower courts shut. A lawyer also sent a legal notice to the Delhi police chief for yesterday's marathon protests, insisting it was illegal and the protesters should be arrested within a week. The chairman of the Bar Council of India has assured action against anyone resorting to violence. "The police want full freedom to act against advocates. The police say they would withdraw security of judges and it is one of their demands. To abuse courts is not right," he said. At the Delhi High Court, the lawyers demanded a gag on the media and accused the police of making provocative statements.

Here are the Top 10 developments in this big story:

1. On the third consecutive day of their protest,  lawyers have closed the main gates at Patiala House and Saket district courts and did not allow litigants access the court premises. At the Rohini district court, a lawyer doused himself with kerosene and threatened self-immolation. Another advocate climbed the rooftop of one of the buildings in the premises, threatening to commit suicide.

2. Assuring that the courts will function normally from tomorrow, Bar Council chairman Mannan Mishra said action has been taken against the lawyer who slapped a police officer at the Saket Court on Monday. "We are Indians not Pakistanis," he said, then added, "The police did not take action against the Constable who had fired against the advocate".

3. The lawyers claim that one of their colleagues was shot in the chest during Saturday's clash at the Tis Hazari Court, in which more than 20 policemen and eight advocates were injured.

4. "This court should take suo motu action on the provocative statements of the police," Delhi Bar Council Chairman KC Mittal told the High Court. Despite the Bar Council of India Chairman's claim of action agianst thbe advocate who slapped a policemen, he claimed they did not know if the man concerned was an advocate.

5. The Delhi Police told the court that another policeman was beaten up yesterday at Palam.

6. Mr Misra also objected to the police filing two First Information Reports on the violence of Saturday and Monday as the matter was "before the Delhi High Court". "This lodging of FIR cannot be justified. If they are not happy with the High Court order passed on Sunday, they can file a review petition or seek recall of the order," Mr Mishra said.

7. The 11-hour protest by policemen  yesterday ended late last evening after action from the police brass following directions by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. Two FIRs were filed for the violence at the Tis Hazari and the Saket courts. A petition will also be filed in the High Court asking it to review yesterday's order of suspension and transfers of the four police officers, top police officers assured.

8. This morning, along with other senior officers, Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik met the Lieutenant Governor, who is the Centre's representative in Delhi. The Delhi Police are under the control of the Union Home Ministry.

9. At least 20 policemen and eight lawyers were injured and 20 vehicles were vandalised in Saturday's clash at Tis Hazari court, which started over a wrongly parked vehicle. The attack was followed by another violent confrontation on Monday, when a policeman was slapped and beaten outside Saket District Court by a group of lawyers.

10. Yesterday, at least a thousand policemen gathered outside the police headquarters, blocking an arterial road of the city. The policemen were upset over what they perceived as a lack of the government's concern about their well-being. The protesting officers have submitted a list of 10 demands, which includes the creation of a Police Protection Act. 

Should the Delhi Police Protestors be arrested?

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Pollution in Delhi 'very poor', but govt claims 12% decline in stubble burning

Even as  pollution in Delhi continues to make life difficult for residents, the government has claimed its efforts has led to 12.01% reduction in stubble burning incidents in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The government, in a statement on Tuesday, said as per ICAR's Creams Laboratory, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab have recorded a reduction of 48.2 %, 11.7% and 8.7%, respectively.

The statement said total 31,402 burning events were detected in the three states between October 1 and November 3. As per the statement, concrete steps were taken after directions from the Prime Minister's Office in 2017 to adopt mechanised crop residue management programme.

The scheme, Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue, was launched with a total outgo of Rs 1,151.8 crore for 2018-19 and 2019-20, wherein the Centre provided subsidised machinery for the management of crop residue.

The government says during 2018-19, it released funds worth Rs 269.38 crore, Rs 137.84 crore and Rs 148.60 crore, to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, respectively. During 2019-20, the government released Rs 273.80 crore, Rs 192.06 crore and Rs 105.29 crore these states.

Despite these claims, the pollution level in Delhi is one of the worst in the world. The Centre's pollution monitoring agency SAFAR said the air quality in Delhi was at 381 (very poor) level on Tuesday while it was at 588 (severe) on Monday.

US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also released satellite images that show a dramatic increase in stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana between October 21 to October 29.

Do you think Stubble Burning should be strictly banned by the govt?

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"What Will Odd-Even Achieve?" Supreme Court Grills Delhi Over Pollution

The odd-even road rationing scheme, which started today as part of the pollution control measures of the Delhi government, faced scrutiny of the Supreme Court today as the judges looked for a long-term plan to ensure clean air at the national capital. The court pulled up the Delhi government, questioning what has been achieved by the odd-even scheme and asked that government supply figures regarding the impact of the road rationing.

"What are you achieving by odd and even? Are you preventing running of taxis? Have you any figure on impact of odd and even?" the court asked. "People have to travel. You are not stopping travel. What do you achieve by stopping cars?" said Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, who are hearing a plea by the pollution control body Environment Pollution Control Authority or EPCA on stubble burning in neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana.

Critics of the scheme have pointed out that with two wheelers and diesel-spewing commercial vehicles not being under the odd-even plan, its impact is negligible.  

"It has been argued that more use of two and three wheelers is causing more harm and no there's use in implementing odd-even," the court said.

When the government suggested that fewer cars would mean less pollution, the court retorted, "More autos are plying, that's more pollution".

The judges ordered the Delhi government to respond on stopping diesel vehicles and submit data on the difference between stopping four wheelers and using only two and three wheelers.

The court also stopped construction and demolition work across Delhi and tasked municipal authorities with ensuring that there is no violation. The entry of diesel vehicles and garbage burning was also banned in the national capital.

Do you think Delhi's Odd-Even plan will be successful?

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1 Dead, 15 Injured In Grenade Attack In Srinagar, Third In J&K In 2 Weeks

One person was killed and 15 others were injured in a grenade attack at a vegetable market in Srinagar this afternoon, police said. This is the third grenade attack in Jammu and Kashmir in the last two weeks.

All those who were injured in today's blast at a vegetable market in Hari Singh High Street in the centre of the city have been admitted to hospital and two of them are said to be critical. The attack took place at 1:20 pm.

Terrorists targeted roadside vendors as markets remains shut in the city amid restrictions. The market area has now been cordoned off.

Today's blast comes a week after 15 civilians were injured in a similar attack in Sopore town of north Kashmir. Several civilians were targeted when they were waiting at a bus stand.

In another terror attack on October 26, six security personnel were injured when a CRPF team was inspecting vehicles at a checkpost and terrorists threw a grenade.

Security personnel have been on high alert in Jammu and Kashmir ever since its special status under Article 370 was scrapped through a presidential order on August 5.

Terrorists have been targeting truck drivers and labourers belonging to other states after the centre stripped J&K of its special status. Eleven non-locals were killed in October in separate terror attacks. Last week, five labourers from Bengal were shot dead in Kulgam district.

Do you think India should respond to the recent attacks?

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