New Delhi, Oct 11 (PTI) The Centre Thursday appealed to neighbouring states like Haryana and Punjab to work with full sincerity and responsibility in persuading farmers not to burn paddy stubble in order to check pollution.

Union Environment and Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the Centre is monitoring the matter at all levels.

“I am appealing and praying and hopeful that states will definitely work with more sincerity and responsibility as compared to earlier years (on the issue),” he told reporters here.

Stubble burning has been a major concern in northern India during the harvesting season. It led to severe air pollution in National Capital Region and its neighbouring areas in the past few years, prompting the authorities to take measures to tackle the problem.

The ministry, he said, has held meetings with ministers and officers of the states on the issue and asked them to distribute farm equipments to farmers by October 15.

The Centre has already provided Rs 500-600 crore for the purpose, he said, adding that it was urged to the states to deal with the matter with full seriousness.

He also said that going by the data till October 9, stubble burning incidents are low so far as compared to 2016 and 2017.

“This is an issue where we need to increase awareness and social movement. Government needs to be very vigilant,” the minister said, adding the centre is in touch with the neighbouring states.

If Delhi is in problem (because of this), then our international image also gets impacted, Vardhan noted.

“The message is very loud and clear to farmers and states that if the stubble is burnt in Punjab or Haryana, it is not that Delhi is going to be affected. Those states’ air quality will also deteriorates and people also get affected by lung ailments and respiratory disorders. So ultimately, this is everybody’s responsibility to keep people healthy,” he added.

When asked if Punjab would not agree on the matter, he said: “I am an optimistic person and why they should not agree to it. After all it’s not anybody’s personal agenda. It is the agenda of people”.

The minister was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Light India exhibition.

Speaking at the event, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu asked the lighting industry to boost manufacturing and exports of the product.

He said huge opportunities will come up for the industry in the aviation sector as India plans to construct 100 airports at an estimated cost of USD 60 billion (about Rs 4.2 lakh crore) in the next 10 to 15 years.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.