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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Respiratory problems increase as farmers burn paddy straw

Harshraj Singh, Hindustan Times  Ludhiana, October 23, 2013
First Published: 20:11 IST(23/10/2013) | Last Updated: 20:14 IST(23/10/2013)

With no stop on burning of paddy straw, cases of respiratory problems and conjunctivitis have increased by 20% at city hospitals.

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Worse, doctors say the cases are likely to increase as Diwali inches near and if no steps are taken to stop the practice or control pollution around Diwali. “People with respiratory illnesses are the most troubled these days due to burning of paddy straw. Asthmatics can suffer an attack, so they should take precautions,” said Dr Akashdeep Singh, a consultant at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana.

“People reporting respiratory problems have increased by up to 20% this month. Smoke and dust particles can cause respiratory problems, cough, cold, irritation in eyes and other allergies,” said Dr Akashdeep.

Dr Arun Mitra, the general secretary of city-based non-government organisation (NGO) Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha, said the practice was bad for soil. “Besides, chest and respiratory problems are common these days. The district administration should take steps to stop this practice and arrange machines for farmers to handle paddy straw. Punjab Agricultural University should also take steps to curb the burning of paddy straw,” Jatha said.

Surinder Gupta, general secretary of National Integrated Medical Association, too blamed burning of paddy straw for increase in respiratory and conjunctivitis cases. “Besides, people also reported irritation or redness in eyes around this time of the year. This is all because of burning of paddy straw.”

However, Gurjit Singh, a farmer of Jodhan village, said small farmers could not afford machines for handling paddy. “If the problem is so serious, the government should give us subsidies and arrange machines for the purpose,” he said.

Contacted, deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal appealed to farmers to stop burning of paddy straw, saying that it affected health and also led to road accidents. “Farmers should adopt alternative ways to handle paddy straw. It is a big problem. Agricultural universities can also play an important role to redress the problem. We have already imposed a ban on burning of straw under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).”

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