Centre turns down proposal to give cash incentive to Punjab farmers for not burning stubble
Punjab and Delhi govts had sought Centre’s contribution to give ₹2,500 per acre incentive to farmers for not burning paddy stubble during the upcoming kharif harvest. Now, we have received a communication from the ministry of agriculture that our proposal has been rejected, says Punjab chief secy VK Janjua
The Centre has turned down the proposal by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governments in Punjab and Delhi to give ₹2,500 per acre incentive to farmers for not burning paddy stubble during the upcoming kharif harvest.
HT was first to report in July that the Punjab and Delhi governments had written to the Centre, seeking ₹1,500 per acre incentive to tackle farm fires --- a major contributor to severe air pollution in the National Capital Region before the advent of winter.
The remaining expense of ₹1,000 per acre was to be borne by the state governments.
“We had sought a support of ₹1,125 crore from the Union government in the total outlay of ₹1,875 crore while ₹375 crore each was to be contributed by Punjab and Delhi governments. Now, we have received a communication from the ministry of agriculture that our proposal has been rejected,” said Punjab chief secretary VK Janjua.
He, however, said the states were still trying to work out the incentive which could now come down to ₹1,000 per acre. The Punjab government has kept an outlay of ₹200 crore in its budget this year to check the menace of stubble burning.
In Delhi and its surrounding areas, pollution becomes the focal point of the discourse around public health every year before the winter sets in as the area becomes one of the most-polluted regions in the world owing to a series of factors like stubble burning by neighbouring states, emissions from millions of vehicles, construction and road dust.
During the kharif season, paddy is sown on over 29-30 lakh hectares (70-72 lakh acres) in Punjab. The state produces roughly 185 lakh tonnes of paddy crop residue every year. Of this, 49% is managed in-situ (mixing the residue in the soil) and ex-situ (used as fuel) methods and the rest is set ablaze.
After the paddy harvest, the window for rabi (wheat) sowing is very short. The farmers prefer to burn the stubble as it’s the cheapest method to prepare their farms for the next cultivation.
An official in the state agriculture department, who was a part of the meetings with central officials, said: “The agriculture ministry has rejected our proposal citing that ₹275 crore has already been sanctioned for supplying subsidised machines for in-situ management of paddy straw.”
With the allocated funds, 32,100 more subsidised machines will be supplied to the farmers. In the past four seasons, at least 90,000 machines have been supplied to farmers in Punjab, with the Centre releasing ₹269 crore, ₹273 crore, ₹272 crore and ₹331 crore in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The previous Congress government in Punjab had sought ₹100 per quintal as incentive from the Centre to check stubble burning in 2019.
All these grants, however, have failed to bring down the raging farm fires, with 2021 alone reporting a total of 71,246 incidents during the paddy harvest season.
Janjua said during the upcoming kharif harvest, the focus would be on optimum use of machines for in-situ management of paddy stubble.
“We will make sure all machines are put to best use and arrangements are being made to install GPS in these machines,” he said.
“I have no hope from any government. The Centre has backtracked and very soon, the Punjab and Delhi governments will also put a lid on the scheme,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal.