Stubble burning: Delhi at risk of another smog attack as Punjab farmers have little alternative but burn straw
Under pressure after the outcry raised over pollution caused by stubble-burning, the Punjab government last month announced the provision of more than 7,000 farming machines to farmers for scientific management of paddy residue. Subsidy of 50 percent on the machines was offered to individual farmers and 80 percent to cooperative societies.
The machinery, including paddy straw choppers, mulcher, RMB plough, shrub cutter, zero till drill, and super straw management systems on harvesters, would be used to remove stalks from 30 lakh hectare of land.
The state’s nodal officer for the anti-stubble burning campaign KS Pannu said the agriculture department was working to ensure the delivery of machines before the onset of the paddy harvesting season.
“All deputy commissioners have been directed to aggressively pursue the campaign to end stubble-burning – a major cause of pollution in north India,” he said.
The government has also appointed nodal officers in 8,000 paddy-growing villages to check stubble-burning.
According to additional chief secretary Viswajeet Khanna, to curb the practice this year, staff from panchayats and agriculture, horticulture, soil conservation and other departments will also be roped in.
For every 20 villages, an officer will be deployed to submit a detailed status report after the harvesting season, so that data is collated and stored in the offices of the chief agriculture officer for record and reference purpose.
But the farmers will still be forced to burn their fields.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of one faction of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said the paddy crop had retained moisture due to the recent rains and harvesting would be further delayed.
“Farmers will be forced to burn the paddy residue to clear the land for the wheat crop. The majority of poor farmers are not in a position to get machinery to remove the stubble even at subsidised rates,” he said.
He further pointed out that whitefly had destroyed a large portion of the cotton crop in the Malwa belt of Punjab in the past five-seven years, forcing the farmers to replace it with paddy.
For long, the farmers have been demanding incentives for proper disposal of stubble from fields.
Buta Singh, 39, one such farmer from Barnala, said some of his kind in his village have formed groups to get access to the subsidised machinery.