As Government says fires surged not too long ago, Punjab’s farm refrain: ‘It’s majboori’

ON STUBBLE burning, the chorus from Punjab’s farm fields may be summed up in a single phrase: “Majboori (helplessness)”.

Here, fields go from yellow to a scorched black in a couple of minutes — a fast burning that takes its toll on the air overhead and additional away, within the nationwide capital the place the contentious follow is on the coronary heart of a Supreme Court listening to on air air pollution.

On Monday, Punjab’s numbers had been flagged in an annexure to the Centre’s affidavit within the apex court docket.

The annexure — the minutes of a gathering Sunday of the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas —states that in Punjab, “about 42,285 incidences have been reported in last 10 days alone out of a cumulative fire count of 62,863 till November 13, 2021, during this season”.

On the bottom, The Indian Express travelled throughout Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala and Bathinda, the state’s southern districts near Delhi, the place farmers pointed to a mixture of components which have compelled them to reach for the matchstick — from costly options to a shrinking harvest window.

In Sangrur’s Tungan village, gusts of smoke carry black wisps of burnt straw in the direction of Gagandeep Sharma because the 24-year-old watches his small farm land burn. “Untimely rainfall this year delayed the paddy harvest. The fields are usually cleared by this time of the year in preparation for the rabi crop,” he says.

The fields are ablaze from round midday onwards. So a lot in order that the solar is barely seen, says Malkeer Singh, a farmer in Sangrur’s Mangwal village. “We don’t like to do this either, but this is our majboori,” he says.

In a state that depends closely on mechanised agriculture, Gagandeep and his father personal no farm equipment, simply “five bighas and our pride”. A mix harvester is rented for the harvest, and a rotavator to combine the leftover stubble again into the soil after burning. The fast hearth solely chars the hay, and never the more durable stubble on the backside that some farmers burn.

“Give us the money to dispose of the straw without burning it or buy it from us,” says Gagandeep.

Kalwinder Singh, one other farmer in Sangrur, with 5 acres of land, agrees. “The system is expensive, so small farmers resort to burning. Labour to clear the fields manually can cost Rs 5,000-6,000 per acre,” he says.

In the southern districts, PUSA-44, a excessive yielding and late maturing number of paddy is dominant, based on L S Kurinji, programme affiliate, Council on Energy, Environment and Water. This leaves farmers with solely a small window to clear the sphere and sow wheat, says Gagandeep.

If the Government procures different crops at minimal help worth, farmers will sow these as a substitute of water-guzzling paddy, says Harmel Singh, a farmer in Barsat village of Patiala. Burning residue destroys “good” organisms from the soil as properly, he factors out.

The Pusa bio decomposer, an answer meant to be sprayed on fields to assist decompose stubble, endorsed by the Delhi authorities for farmers within the capital area, isn’t accessible for a number of farmers in Punjab. Harmel Singh says a personal firm had sprayed the answer on a discipline however many have no idea the place to get the answer from.

The system to purchase or lease agricultural tools wants fine-tuning, based on the farmers. A subsidy of 50 per cent is supplied to particular person farmers and 80 per cent to cooperative societies to buy choose farm equipment. But tractors — a “farmer’s life”, as Malkeer Singh places it — should not eligible for subsidy.

“The tractor needs to be subsidised along with the other implements on the list,” says Gurjant Singh, a farmer in Laleana village of Bathinda, who additionally rents out a superseeder.

A superseeder operated by a robust tractor of round 70 HP will keep away from burning, based on Gurjant. A superseeder can take away stubble and sow wheat concurrently. “But a powerful tractor is expensive and not subsidised. A superseeder used with a smaller tractor does not help with the hay that forms the upper part of the hard stubble,” he says.

A Straw Management System (SMS) operated by a mix harvester can reduce up the stubble and make it simpler for different machines to show it into the soil, says Harmel Singh. But smaller farmers would possibly select to not lease one, contemplating the extra value.

Besides, the SMS is taken into account to be a gas guzzling technique, Gurjant says, including that no person in his village had purchased it.

Across these districts, teams of farmers have additionally registered as cooperative societies that lease out farm implements. But to what number of farmers can the societies lease out implements inside a brief interval, asks Gagandeep.

Harmel factors out that the only cooperative society for seven villages in Patiala, together with Barsat, Kishangarh and Sultanpur, doesn’t have a superseeder. Three farmers in Barsat village lease it out and it runs all day and night time, he says.

A credit score cooperative society in Laleana village, with about 400 members, doesn’t personal any farm equipment because it doesn’t have the funds to buy them, says an area official.

The space beneath paddy cultivation in Sangrur and adjoining Malerkotla districts is 2,90,000 hectares, based on J S Grewal, Chief Agriculture Officer, Sangrur. In Sangrur, a complete of two,085 machines got subsidies in 2020-21, up from 1,555 in 2019-20, and down from 2706 in 2018-19.

According to Krunesh Garg, Member Secretary, Punjab Pollution Control Board, there have been 9,343 incidents of stubble burning this season, and a complete environmental compensation quantity of Rs 2,62,52,500 has been imposed.

Back in Bathinda, some fields have straw stacked in small, rectangular bales. Says Gurjant: “If a system was created to purchase the bales of hay, we can invest in more of them. A baling machine works perfectly well to remove the straw, but what will we do with the straw after it is packed?”