Delhi pollution: Punjab’s crop-burning may not end soon as farmers struggle with subsidies, funds

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Published: November 4, 2019 2:21:39 PM

The district that reported 2,157 farm fires from September 23 to October 30, an increase of 943 fires as compared to last year, was also covered in a thick veil of smog, not unlike Delhi. Of 3.16 lakh hectares of Sangrur’s farmland, paddy cultivation is done in around 2.8 lakh hectares.

delhi pollution, odd even rule, stubble burning, delhi weather today, air quality index, aqi delhi, delhi pollution, pollution level in delhi today, air quality index delhi, air quality index near me, aqi, delhi pollution level, air purifier, delhi weather, aqi gurgaon, pollution in delhi, delhi air quality, aqi noida, delhi aqi, delhi pollution level today live, aqi delhi now, n95 mask, air quality, aqi in delhi today, delhi aqi today, stubble burning, air pollution in delhi, most polluted city in the world, aqi ghaziabad, punjabAccording to the Punjab government, farm fires from the state contribute just over 15 per cent to Delhi’s pollution. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

As the national capital remains covered in thick smog, highest in three years and makes it to the list of top 10 polluted cities in the world – it leaves one wondering about where things went wrong.

Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana have been cited as the biggest contributor to the pollution in the Delhi national capital region. This, despite the Centre and the state promising measures to provide alternatives to farmers in order to discourage them from resorting to crop burning.

Officials in Sangrur, the largest paddy producing district of Punjab, which also witnessed the highest number of farm fires in a single day this year, told The Indian Express that the shift to “expensive” mechanical alternatives of stubble burning has been slow, and identified it as a problem area.

The district that reported 2,157 farm fires from September 23 to October 30, an increase of 943 fires as compared to last year, was also covered in a thick veil of smog, not unlike Delhi. Of 3.16 lakh hectares of Sangrur’s farmland, paddy cultivation is done in around 2.8 lakh hectares.

According to the Punjab government, farm fires from the state contribute just over 15 per cent to Delhi’s pollution.

A district agriculture officer said, “Farmers who buy Happy Seeder and Super Seeder machines will also have to buy a tractor of over 55 HP, and that costs around Rs 4 lakh. Small and medium-scale farmers are not being able to spend that much amount of money.”

A Happy Seeder and Super Seeder machine cost around Rs 1.7 lakh and Rs 2.10 lakh, on which the farmers and farmers’ groups get 50 and 80 per cent subsidy respectively.

Punjab produces around 20 million metric tonnes of paddy straw annually, according to official estimate — Sangrur it produced over 20 lakh metric tonnes of straw in 2018.

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Gurtej Singh, a small-scale farmer from Bhadalwad village, was setting fire to his field covered with chopped paddy straws. He has taken a 10-acre farm on lease on which he cultivates paddy.

“I have to invest a lot for growing paddy, the cost of fertilisers and pesticides have increased. If I am not making enough profit, how will I buy the machines?” Singh told IE. According to him, the state government could provide an incentive to the farmers who are burning paddy stubble – with which they can, in turn, hire a Happy Seeder or a Super Seeder to clear out the field.

However, there are over 1,200 Happy Seeder machines in Sangrur but, according to IE report, the farmers have not responded positively. According to them, the seeders plant seeds in the stubble, which “draws pests and does not give the field a clean look”.

As of new machines, there were 277 applications but only 71 subsidies have been reportedly sanctioned by the government. So, the district agriculture office has decided to go on with a lucky draw, and an official said, “Those who have not yet got subsidy will have to wait.”

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh recently said that the state government has initiated action against 2,923 farmers in 20,729 cases of stubble burning till November 1. In Sangrur itself, 353 challans have been issued totalling over Rs 8.80 lakh, IE reported.

But according to another farmer, Dalveer Singh, “Around 15 percent of the field has to be burned, for the machine to run smoothly.” So, some farmers, who even own a machine had burned their field partially. Confirming it officials said, many farmers have burned stubble partially as it reduces the moisture in paddy straw, and makes it easier to cut the straw.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary K S Pannu pitched in for incentives to farmers by the Centre. He said the problem could be solved if the Centre could dish out Rs 100 per quintal of paddy for not burning the stubble. However, he is hopeful that in the next 3-4 years, all farmers will be able to shift to the new technology.

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