Burning paddy stubble continues unabated in Faridkot, even as the government has issued strict instructions to farmers to refrain from the practice.
"It happens every six months. All fields across the state are burnt to clear way for the next crop. A lot of pollution is caused. Farmers, unthinkingly, are destroying their land and environment as the government looks on," said Khushwant Bargari, president of Peoples' Forum Bargari, an NGO.
"The practice is now assuming even more dangerous proportions as all the paddy stubble left after the harvesting is burnt. Farmers hire a tractor-driven paddy chopper, which cuts stubble from the level of the roots. Then the field is burnt," said Sukhjinder Singh Brar, a farmer from Behbal Khurd village.
"Previously, straw was partially burnt without chopping and there was relatively little pollution," claimed Brar.
There are solutions, but most farmers refrain from deploying them due to the cost. Agriculture equipment such as Rotavator, Roto seeder and Happy seeder can used clear the field. However, these have not gained mass acceptance.
"We offer 50% subsidy on most of the equipment, but farmers are not coming forward to buy them. We also have a subsidy scheme for paddy bailer costing around Rs 10 lakh. We have not yet received any application from farmers intending to use the machines," said Sukhwant Singh Sran, Faridkot chief agriculture officer.
"Burning paddy stubble also destroys many insects that are good for the soil, micronutrients, micro organisms and also pollutes the environment," he added.
Another reason for the low adoption of modern technology is the small size of the land holdings, making it unviable for a single farmer to use such schemes.
There is also a lack of awareness among farmers.
"Paddy stubble leads to air pollution, which can precipitate diseases like asthma and others related to the respiratory tract. More than 10 times the cases are reported this season," said Dr Chander Sekhar, a specialist at civil hospital Faridkot.
"Burning of paddy stubble certainly leads to pollution as it increases the harmful contents in the air. We advise the farmers not to burn paddy stubble. They can sell it to bio mass plants which are in Abohar, Fazilka and Muktsar," said engineer SS Dhaliwal, area office, PPCB Faridkot.
Such plants are also needed in Faridkot and Moga, but have not been set up.
"I have asked officials to go in the field and give a report and suggest solutions," said Mohammad Tayyab, Faridkot DC.