A youth was killed and another injured after security forces allegedly fired on protesters during clashes in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday.The forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in over a dozen villages in Pulwama in the morning, following information about the presence of militants in the area, a police official said.At the time of the operation, a group of youth started pelting stones on the forces in some places. Two persons were injured in firing by the forces during clashes in Gusoo village, the official said.The two were taken to a hospital, from where, one of them, Fayaz Ahmad Wani, was referred to the SMHS Hospital here. Wani was, however, declared dead at the hospital, he said.Clashes between the protesters and security forces were going on when last reports came in. The search operation is in progress, he added.Separatists in Kashmir on Monday called for a boycott of the panchayat and urban local body polls scheduled to be held from next month.A statement in this regard was issued after a meeting of the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising separatists Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik at Mr. Geelani’s residence in Hyderpora. It alleged that the Centre wants to thrust panchayat and municipal elections upon the people of Kashmir and that “New Delhi has never believed in empowering the people of J&K or the institutions here.” Elections have “only been a means to further strengthen New Delhi’s hold on J&K”, the statement alleged.Despite similar calls for boycott by separatists, Jammu and Kashmir registered its highest voter turn-out in the last 25 years during the 2014 Assembly election, with an estimated 65% of electorate casting their votes. The last panchayat election in the State were held in April-May 2011, with a record voter turnout of 80%. The panchayat elections were scheduled to be held in 2016 but were put off due to unrest in the Valley.
Farmers continue to burn stubble despite banVolume 90%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9Live00:0001:1501:15 There has been a spike in agricultural fires — a phenomenon that’s known to worsen air pollution — in Punjab in September, significantly more than in the same month last year.Krunesh Garg, member-secretary, Punjab Pollution Control Board, said there were 107 fires from September 24-26. In 2018 there were only 11 fires during the same period. However, in 2016 and 2017 there were 106 and 150 fires respectively from September 27-30.Mr. Garg said last year’s numbers were unusually low because paddy harvesting was delayed due to the persistence of the monsoon. “Last year, the onset of monsoon was late and it persisted well into October. This year, harvesting of basmati varieties of rice has already begun, hence the apparent rise in September,” he said.Agricultural fires, in which farmers set fire to their fields after harvesting paddy, tend to begin around late September and peak around the last week of October by which time farmers have harvested most of their paddy. There were 80,879 fire incidents detected during the paddy harvesting season in 2016, 43,660 in 2017 and about 40,000 in 2018. “There was a 10% reduction last year from 2017 and we expect around the same reduction this year,” Mr. Garg said. Watch | Farmers continue to burn stubble despite ban Punjab’s fires tend to worsen Delhi’s pollution as particulate matter floats into the city, affecting the already polluted winter air.The Centre and Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had — over several meetings last year — declared a “zero tolerance” policy on stubble burning by farmers which, according to various studies, contributes anywhere from 17% to 78% to the particulate matter emission load in Delhi during winter.Last year, the Union Agriculture Ministry earmarked ₹591 crore for disbursal to Punjab, Haryana and U.P. to help farmers access machines that collect or plough the stubble back into the soil.A senior official in the Union Agriculture Ministry said in spite of subsidies, the implements were “expensive” for the farmers and thus it was cheaper for them to set chaff ablaze.(With inputs fromPriscilla Jebaraj)