Punjab covers 30.84 lakh hectares under paddy; stubble burning a challenge for govt
With paddy sowing coming to a close, the total area covered under the non-conventional method of direct seeded rice (DSR) is 82,000 hectares; stubble burning has become a major challenge for the government
: A total of 30.84 lakh hectares has been covered under rice cultivation in Punjab as paddy sowing in the current kharif season comes to a close, with the agriculture department now staring at the mammoth problem of tackling 200 lakh tonnes of stubble produced along with the grain.
The total area covered under the non-conventional method of direct seeded rice (DSR) is 82,000 hectares against the projection of 12 lakh hectares. Aromatic premium basmati is sown over 4.65 lakh hectares, which has gone up by about 20,000 hectares from the last season’s 4.38 lakh tonnes.
After the paddy harvest in October-November, the window for rabi (wheat) sowing is very short due to which the farmers prefer to burn the stubble as it is the cheapest method to ready their farms for the next sowing.
Of the total stubble produced along with the grain, 49% is managed by in-situ (mixing the residue in the soil) and ex-situ (used as fuel) methods and rest is set ablaze, with the smoke rising from the fields leading to formation of smog over north Indian states, including the national capital New Delhi.
“We have made a good start as rainfall is optimum at the onset of paddy sowing. The biggest challenge is the burning of residue at the time of harvest in October-November,” said secretary agriculture, Punjab, Dilraj Singh.
He said that other than the funds for subsidised machines for in-situ management of the stubble, the Centre has allocated funds to the tune of ₹ 275 crore (against a demand of ₹ 474 crore) to Punjab for in-situ management of stubble for the current kharif harvest season.
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.
However, all these grants have failed to bring down the raging farm fires, with 2021 alone reporting a total of 71,246 incidents of stubble burning during the paddy harvest season.
“There is a proposal being made to give incentive of ₹ 2,500 per acre to the farmers for not burning stubble, and we are hopeful of materialising it,” Dilraj Singh said.
The Aam aadmi party (AAP) governments in Punjab and Delhi have decided to give an incentive ₹ 2,500 per acre to the paddy growers of the state, involving a total cost of ₹ 1,875 crore. Out of this, ₹ 500 each will be contributed by the two state governments and the Punjab government will seek the centre to contribute the rest.
The previous Congress government in the state had sought ₹ 100 per quintal as incentive from the Centre to check stubble burning in 2019. Punjab’s farm unions have also been demanding a direct cash incentive instead of subsidy for machines for in-situ management of paddy straw. The funds, however, have not come through. ENDS