Even as the Punjab government is carrying out extensive awareness campaigns sensitising farmers to stop stubble burning; all their efforts seem to go in vain in the absence of an alternate environment-friendly mechanism provided to the farmers for managing stubble.
With paddy procurement is in midway, the agriculture department officials are busy sensitising farmers to use happy seeders to sow wheat without removing paddy stubble.
However, both Patiala and Sangrur agriculture departments and their Primary Agriculture Cooperatives Societies (PACS) are short of happy seeders, thus, raising a question mark on officials' concern and government's intent to deal with the problem.
According to information, the Patiala agriculture department does not have a happy seeder and depending on privately-own five happy seeders across the district whereas the Sangrur agriculture department possesses only 20 happy seeders.
With increasing demands from farmers for environment-friendly seeders for sowing season only and having no alternative in sight, the officials are sent in tizzy.
Furthermore, the empty coffer of the department adding to their woes and exposing the Punjab government's tall claims on agri-front.
“It's not possible for us to ensure sowing of wheat with a few numbers of happy seeders. We can either fulfil the farmers' demand or give demonstrations at training camps to farmers. When farmers demand machines for trail or on temporary basis, the situation becomes awkward for us,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
“The government has also failed to provide proper funds to buy machinery to tackle the problem of stubble burning. In the shortage of machines, subsidies on the machine would help farmers purchase the machines,” the official added.
Worried over the practice of burning paddy stubble that caused serious health and environment problems, and a major cause of road accidents, the Punjab government launched happy seeders in 2010.
With an objective to promote the machines, the authorities also announced a cash prize of Rs 10,000 to the farmers who were doing away with stubble burning and had started using happy seeders for wheat sowing.
Chief agriculture officer Balwinder Singh Sohal said that they had limited machinery, but the government had invited applications from the farmers who were interested to buy these machines on their own.
“We don't have our own machines and are totally dependent on private farmers. We have directed our cooperative societies incharges to make different clusters of farmers and to exhort them to buy such machines for joint usage,” he added.
He said the government had offered a subsidy of around Rs 60, 000 to interested farmers for the purchase of the machine against its actual costs of Rs 1.5 lakh.
“If the government is serious about environment, it should have provided proper machinery. What options are we left with, but to burn the stubble,” said Jagmail Singh, a farmer from Jassomajra village of Patiala district.