Paddy harvesting: At least 65,000 apply for stubble management machines in Punjab - Hindustan Times
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Paddy harvesting: At least 65,000 apply for stubble management machines in Punjab

By, Chandigarh
Aug 29, 2022 01:38 AM IST

The subsidised machines provided to farmers, include super-straw management system, happy seeders, super seeders, paddy-straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart seeders and spatial seed drills, crop reapers, and self-propelled reaper-cum-binders.

At least 65,000 Punjab farmers have applied for 32,100 subsidised in-situ crop residue management machines that are to be provided by the state government during kharif harvesting, expected to start from the last week of September.

With applications outnumbering the machines available with the Punjab government, the allotment will be done through a lottery system by district-level committees, headed by deputy commissioners. (HT File)
With applications outnumbering the machines available with the Punjab government, the allotment will be done through a lottery system by district-level committees, headed by deputy commissioners. (HT File)

With the demand tally for machines standing at 1.08 lakh – each farmer may have applied for multiple machines – the happy seeder, used for wheat sowing in unploughed field after paddy harvest, has emerged the most sought after machine.

The subsidised machines provided to farmers, include super-straw management system, happy seeders, super seeders, paddy-straw choppers, reversible ploughs, zero till drill, balers, rakes and shrub master, smart seeders and spatial seed drills, crop reapers, and self-propelled reaper-cum-binders.

The state government is offering subsidised machines from the central government grant of 275 crore (against a demand of 474 crore) and this is the fifth year in row since 2018 when machines are being given for stubble management. At the onset of the winters, the fires raging from fields are seen as a contributor to the thick smog jacket that cover the skies of North Indian states, particularly national capital New Delhi.

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, giving away a total of 1,145 crore.

All these grants, however, have failed to bring down the stubble trouble, with 2021 alone reporting a total of 71,246 farm fire incidents during the paddy harvest season, though agriculture department officials say that the area under farm fires went down from 17 lakh hectares in 2020 to 14 lakh hectares in 2021.

185 lakh tonne paddy residue produced every year

The state produces roughly 185 lakh tonnes of paddy crop residue every year. Of this, 49% is managed in-situ (mixing the residue in soil) and ex-situ (used as fuel) methods and rest is set ablaze. This season, paddy has been sown over 30.84 lakh hectares, and as a bumper crop is expected, the stubble quantity is also expected to be maximum. The focus this year is also on ex-situ management of stubble by way of using it as fuel in thermal power generating plants, for which a separate plan has been rolled out by the state and central governments.

After paddy harvest, the window for rabi (wheat) sowing is very short. Thus, farmers prefer burning the stubble as it is the cheapest method to ready the farms for the next crop.

With applications outnumbering the machines available with the state government, the allotment will be done through a lottery system by district-level committees, headed by deputy commissioners.

As far as demand for machines is concerned, Sangrur topped the chart with 8,000 applications; followed by Ferozpur (6,700); Bathinda (5,200); Muktsar (5,100); Patiala (4,500) and Mansa (4,100). “The village-level agricultural cooperative societies would be the top priority for supply of machines,” informed a senior functionary in the state department.

While an individual farmer is being offered a subsidy of 50% on a single machine, custom-hiring centres run by village-level agricultural cooperative societies and village panchayats are being offered a subsidy of 80% per machine. This time, farmers’ groups have been ticked out of the list of beneficiaries, owing to irregularities in disbursal of subsidy in the previous years.

At least 14% machines of the total 90,000 machines supplied for in-situ management have been found missing and farmers’ groups have been found to be involved. The state government is planning to hand over the inquiry in the matter to vigilance bureau. To check pilferage of the subsidy this time, the agriculture department has decided to transfer subsidy directly into beneficiaries’ accounts.

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