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Punjab farmers to get balers to clear stubble

Sep 10, 2023 11:05 PM IST

The Punjab government will provide 30 balers to farmer groups or custom hiring centres (CHCs) at a subsidy of 65%, officials said

Farmers in Punjab will be given subsidised balers during the paddy harvest season in October and November, officials familiar with the matter said on Sunday, adding that the machines costing about 1 crore each will help compact the crop’s remnants to be removed from the field so that they do not need to be burned.

Burning of paddy stubble – stalks left behind after harvesters snip away the top parts – is a cheap and quick way to deal with the residue but leads to an air pollution crisis in most of North India. (HT Archive)
Burning of paddy stubble – stalks left behind after harvesters snip away the top parts – is a cheap and quick way to deal with the residue but leads to an air pollution crisis in most of North India. (HT Archive)

Burning of paddy stubble – stalks left behind after harvesters snip away the top parts – is a cheap and quick way to deal with the residue but leads to an air pollution crisis in most of North India. The state government is now focussing on helping farmers either mix the residue within the field, or remove and sell them.

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The Punjab government will provide 30 balers to farmer groups or custom hiring centres (CHCs) at a subsidy of 65%, officials said. These groups or centres can then let them out to farmers.

The state agriculture department received 210 applications for subsidised balers by August 15, and the list of beneficiaries — to be chosen on a per needs basis — will be revealed on Monday, according to department director Jaswant Singh.

“Machines with German technology are being assembled in Punjab, and these are useful in evacuating stubble from the fields by making bales of three to five quintals,” Singh said.

In Punjab, paddy is sown over three million hectares (7.5 million acres) during the Kharif — or summer crop — harvest in October and November, when farmers usually have a shorter window in which they need to clear their fields for the winter crop. During this period, farms yield 19-20 million tonnes of paddy and 22 million tonnes of stubble.

At least 60% of the 22 million tonnes is managed in-situ or as fuel in the industry, while the remaining 40% is set ablaze, causing a smog jacket to form over northern India, particularly Delhi.

The crisis often pushes the Capital’s air into the severe category, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) climbing past 400 and even 450, to reach pollution levels of “severe” and “severe-plus”, especially since this period also coincides with the festival of Diwali. To make matters worse, the crisis plays out during pre-winter weather conditions, when winds die down, taking away most of the scope for the pollutants to be blown away.

Singh said because the window between paddy harvest and wheat sowing is so short, farmers require large machines to quickly remove paddy stubble from the fields.

Since 2018, the Centre has funded Punjab’s crop residue management (CRM) programme, with a grant of 1,370 crore sanctioned for the state from 2018 to 2022.

For the current season, 350 crore has been sanctioned, with the condition that Punjab contribute 40% ( 140 crore) and the rest ( 210 crore) will be contributed by the Centre.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gurpreet Singh Nibber is an Assistant Editor with the Punjab bureau. He covers politics, agriculture, power sector, environment, Sikh religious affairs and the Punjabi diaspora.

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