Haryana’s chief secretary said on Sunday that it was unfair to blame the state for Delhi’s poor air quality, as its farmers have a negligible contribution to air pollution in the National Capital Region, PTI reported. There has been a reduction in the amount of crop residue burnt by farmers this year, said DS Dhesi.

Citing data from Haryana Space Applications Centre, Dhesi said that while cases of stubble burning were reported at 12,473 places in the state in 2017, the number was 7,273 this year. This, he said, was only 1% of the total area on which paddy was sown, as compared with 2% last year. “It is being projected that farmers of Haryana are burning crop residue in each and every agricultural field,” he said.

Burning of stubble in Punjab and Haryana is considered one of the main reasons for high levels of pollution in the National Capital Region during early winter. The Delhi government has often blamed the lack of cooperation from the two state governments for the air pollution in the city.

The 24-hour average air quality index in Delhi at 8 am on Monday was 381, which lies in the “very poor” category, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. The index had “severe” readings between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. The real-time index at 8 am in Anand Vihar locality was 493, in the “severe” category. “Very poor” air quality poses a risk of respiratory illness, while “severe” levels may affect even healthy people.

Haryana has signed a pact with the Indian Oil Corporation and the Renewable Energy Department, under which it will purchase crop residue from farmers, Dhesi said. This residue will be used to generate energy at compressed bio-gas plants that will be set up in Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Jind, he said.

During a meeting with administrative officers from three districts on Sunday, Dhesi said the seriousness of officers and the panchayati raj institutions would be evaluated on the basis of their contribution in controlling the burning of crop residue. He set up two committees – one with members of the revenue, agriculture and district development and panchayat departments, and the other with the sub-divisional officer and tehsildar – to monitor the problem.

Dhesi also asked deputy commissioners of Sirsa and Jind districts to not issue arms licences or renew old licences of those found guilty of burning crop residue. Cases should be filed against those guilty, instead of just issuing challans, he said.