Ensure farmers get easy access to stubble-removal machines: EPCA to Punjab, Haryana
EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal on told top officials of Punjab and Haryana that with the number of Covid-19 cases rising across the country, controlling early instances of farm fires will become more important this year.Updated: Oct 01, 2020, 07:29 IST
The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Wednesday asked the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana to ensure that small and marginal farmers in their states get easy access to stubble-removal machines at affordable rates so that cases of crop residue burning can be controlled in the upcoming winter season.
EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal on Wednesday said in his letters to the top officials of Punjab and Haryana that with the number of Covid-19 cases rising across the country, controlling early instances of farm fires will become more important this year because if unchecked, these could worsen problems for people with co-morbidities.
The Punjab government had on August 14 directed that crop residue management machines be provided at a subsidy of 80% to farmers across the state, and that these should be made available to small and marginal farmers on “priority”. The government said the farmers will be charged only operational cost and no rental for the machines. The operational cost includes power charges and operator wages but not the cost of capital.
“The rate of rental, which is being waived of, is not apparent; the cost of operation is not laid down. We would urge you to ensure this is done so that small and marginal farmers have access (to the machines) at affordable/free cost,” Lal said in his letter to Vini Mahajan, chief secretary of Punjab.
A senior Haryana government official said that the office of the chief secretary will respond to the letter in a few days after scanning its contents. The office of Punjab chief secretary did not comment.
On similar lines, the Haryana government had on August 24 directed that small and marginal farmers would be given preference in the use of crop residue management machines in panchayat-run custom hiring centres, by providing 70% reservation for them. Lal in his letter to Haryana chief secretary Keshni Anand Arora, wrote, “We would urge you there should be a clear directive on the rate/free use of machines to small and marginal farmers. The machines have been provided at 80-100% subsidy to panchayat-run CHCs to ensure that farmers, who cannot afford to purchase them, have access.”
He asked both governments to ensure these schemes are widely publicised among farmers.
Meanwhile, the EPCA also submitted a report before the Supreme Court on implementation of schemes announced by state and central governments in Punjab and Haryana to control stubble burning this year.
Citing data from the union ministry’s air quality monitoring agency, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting snd Research, the EPC report said that while stubble burning is not the only cause of pollution in Delhi, “there is no doubt that the transportation of pollutants from burning fields is the tipping point that makes winter’s already unhealthy air quality a public health emergency”.
This year, farmers have already begun burning crop residue in parts of Punjab and Haryana, suggesting an early start to a practice that aggravates winter pollution. Every year these farm fires usually begin in full swing by mid-October.