Haryana gears up to douse paddy stubble burning
Haryana has put in place a robust strategy, including incentives and punitive steps, to put out farm fires ahead of the paddy stubble burning season.
The harvest of paddy crop, spread over 34 lakh acres in Haryana, is set to start in a week. The challenge before the state government is to check farmers from burning the crop residue, blamed for poor air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Monetary incentives to farmers, more custom hiring centres (CHC), staggered paddy harvesting, panchayats passing the zero-stubble burning resolution, awareness campaigns and committees from village to district levels to monitor farm fires and police complaints are among enforcement measures the government has planned to overcome the challenge.
Micro-level planning for zero stubble burning
Last year, farm fires in Haryana’s paddy fields dipped. There was an 11% reduction in stubble burning cases. 9% of the reduction in stubble burning was noticed in 20,900 hectares.
Haryana reported 5,678 active fire locations (AFL) in the 2020 kharif season against 6,364 in 2019 and 9,225 in 2018, according to official data.
The aim of the state agriculture department is to further reduce the number of farm fires and increase the area with zero stubble burning.
According to additional chief secretary (ACS), agriculture, Sumita Misra, micro-level planning has been done on the basis of previous year active fire locations in red and yellow zones of the state. She said under the radar will be 922 (199 in red zone, 723 in yellow zone) hotspot villages. Fatehabad, Kaithal, Jind, Karnal, Sirsa and Kurukshetra districts are in the red zone. All applicants in the red and yellow zones have been allowed to buy the crop residue management machines this year.
“The monitoring and enforcement measures have been chalked out in detail,” said Misra, who is also the Haryana State Pollution Control Board chairperson.
Funds for crop residue management
₹141 crore released for 2021-22 under the crop residue management (CRM) scheme will be used in curbing crop residue burning, while ₹58 crore, which was unspent under a particular plan, will also be utilised this year.
Nodal officers are being deployed at the district, sub division, block and village levels. Two officials in the red category and one in the yellow category have been deputed in each village for ensuring farmers don’t burn crop residue.
A team, comprising officers of the departments of pollution, revenue, panchayat, police, and agriculture, is being constituted at the village, block and tehsil levels for taking enforcement measures, such as issuing challans and lodging police complaints/FIRs, against defaulters.
Staggered harvesting, awareness blitzkrieg
Ensuring staggered harvesting is on the agenda for better machine availability.
In Haryana, 57% of the 34.1 lakh acres of paddy is under basmati which matures two weeks later then the non-basmati type.
Another paddy variety, Muchchal, covers 2 lakh acres and matures after basmati. Thus, staggering is automatically done because of this difference in maturity, officials said.
Further staggering plan has been prepared by shifting baler units from one area to other. The machine operators/owners prefer to exhaust the GT Road belt first. Then they move towards the Sirsa-Fatehabad belt prominent for the 1401-Muchchal variety. The nodal officers at the village level have been asked to further advise the farmers to stagger their harvesting schedule.
Plans are afoot to launch an awareness campaign that includes drawing 1,175 wall paintings in hotspot villages, erecting 800 banner hoardings at prominent places, and deploying 30 vans for demonstration and enforcement.
About 1,900 camps in villages, 96 camps at the block level and 13 at the district level will be held to educate farmers about policies and incentives government has been offering to stop stubble burning. In these camps farmers, custom hiring centre owners, and youngsters of hotspot villages will be trained regarding the operation and maintenance of the crop residue management machinery.
Prevention of crop residue: Broad strategies
Haryana has launched an incentive-driven flagship scheme, Mera Pani Meri Virasat, for diversification from paddy to alternate crops. The government gives ₹7,000 per acre incentive to the farmers.
In 2020-21, the government said 96,000 acres of paddy was diversified with alternate crops and over ₹45 crore incentive was disbursed among the eligible farmers.
This year, farmers have registered 98,000 acres for diversification.
At least 1,000 custom hiring centres (CHCs) at 80% subsidy will be established and 3,550 individual category machines at 50% subsidy will be provided, Misra said.
While an incentive of ₹1,000 per acre will be provided to the farmers for baled paddy straw output, a tie-up is being made with gaushalas, brick-kilns, cardboard, paper, packaging, furniture, and handicraft industries utilising crop residue. The farmers are being made aware about these industries for disposal of the residue.