As paddy harvesting starts, Punjab farmer unions adamant on burning straw if not paid for disposal
With the onset of the paddy harvesting season, Punjab is set to face its major problem in burning of paddy straw which draws a massive criticism for the state and its farming community every year.
But the farmer unions in Punjab have announced that they will not bow down under any pressure and will opt for the cheapest way to handle the crop residue until paid for its proper disposal.
Despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s directions against any such move, red dots (farm fires) on Punjab map have started appearing from Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts, where harvesting of early sown paddy is going on to clear fields for sowing the potato crop.
Already, 43 such cases have been detected by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre.
“Why you expect everything from farmers and that too without paying anything extra? The farmers have no option as neither the Centre nor the state government provide any incentive to them to handle the residue. The government should give Rs 200 per quintal as handling charges as farmers cannot afford it,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda).
“The farmers are already upset over the agriculture ordinances. How could the government stop us when we are being exploited and forced to protest on the roads with passing of these bills. Even the last year, the government didn’t pay any amount to farmers who shunned straw burning,” he said.
Manjit Singh, district president of the BKU (Ugarahan), said the farmers will confront the police and officials of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and the agriculture department if they visit villages to stop them from burning stubble.
“We are aware of the environmental issues but the farmers have no alternative to burning of the straw. They do not have money to manage the stubble with the latest technology,” he said.
“The government must set up power plants where we can sell the crop residue and earn money. But officials are busy in doling out subsidy for machines which are much cheaper in the open market,” Jagtar Singh, a farmer from Fatehgarh Sahib, said.
Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh last week had blamed centre for not announcing incentive to handle paddy straw. Also, chief secretary Vini Mahajan had directed all the deputy commissioners to ensure zero tolerance for paddy straw burning in view of the NGT guidelines.
Doctors worried in
view of Covid-19
Dr Vishal Chopra, a professor in pulmonary medicine at the Government Rajindra Medical College, Patiala, and incharge of Covid-19 said in view of the pandemic, people must be extra cautious and should avoid burning of straw.
“It is for the welfare of all, especially those suffering from ailments of heart and lungs. The Exposure to smog will increase the trouble of such patients,” he said.
FIGURES AT A GLANCE
Farm fires in 2019: 52,942
Farm fires in 2018: 51,751
Estimated stubble residue: 200 lakh tonnes
Number of farmers issued fine: 3,200
Environmental compensation collected:₹40 lakh