Burn notice: Punjab logs 22 farm fires in 4 days

Published on Sep 19, 2022 05:20 AM IST

Of these, 21 were reported in the Majha region of the state (16 in Amritsar and five in Tarn Taran), where early varieties of paddy are sown, and one fire was registered in Mohali.

Representative Image
Representative Image

Patiala/Ludhiana: Punjab has reported 22 paddy stubble burning incidents in the last four days, according to a report by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), which started recording farm fires from September 15 --- marking the beginning of the crop residue burning season which is among the principal contributors to an annual pollution crisis in the national capital and its surrounding areas.

According to report by PRSC, an autonomous organisation under the Punjab government, of the 22 incidents, 21 were reported in the Majha region of the state (16 in Amritsar and five in Tarn Taran), where early varieties of paddy are sown, and one fire was registered in Mohali.

Government officials aware of the matter said that three farmers in the Amritsar district have been fined, while a “red entry” has been made in the land record of another farmer.

“Harvesting of early sown varieties has started. Some farmers who grow vegetables have burnt the paddy straw to clear their fields. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has developed a mobile application to share farm fires data with every block and village-level official in the state,” a spokesperson for PPCB said.

Most farmers burn the residue because it is a quick and cheap way to clear the fields for the sowing of rabi season wheat crop, for which the window is often very short. The result is that Delhi and its surrounding areas report hazardous levels of air pollution.

The Punjab government has deputed around 10,000 officials and employees in the state to monitor stubble burning. PPCB chairman Adarshpal Vig said the data on paddy straw burning has been shared with the district officials concerned.

Last week, the Centre turned down the state government’s proposal of contributing to the cash incentive to farmers for not burning stubble. The state government had proposed to give 2,500 per acre to paddy growers. It suggested that the Centre pay 1,500 per acre while 1,000 per acre will be borne by Punjab and Delhi governments.

However, following the Centre’s rejection of their proposal, the two state governments also dropped the plan to pay the cash incentive.

“How can we pay when the Centre is not giving?” Punjab agriculture minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said last Thursday in response to a question on the cash incentive scheme,

To be sure, Punjab is facing severe financial stress, and has directed its senior officials to cut wasteful expenditure.

Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), said, “We don’t encourage stubble burning, but we will oppose the government if it registers cases against farmers. We are against any action against the farmers, who are already facing distress because of rising inputs costs.”

Meanwhile, under an alternative plan, Delhi and Punjab have joined hands to use Pusa bio-decomposer – a microbial solution that can decompose paddy straw in 15 to 20 days – on 5,000 acres of land in the agrarian state to prevent stubble burning, which is a major cause of air pollution.

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