Chandigarh: Even as the Punjab government has made preparation to curb paddy stubble fires, the bad news had already started trickling in even though the Kharif harvest has just started. In the last four days, 22 incidents of paddy stubble fires have been reported across the state. While these are official figures released by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), sources said the actual number is far higher than what has been reported.
Stubble burning is considered to be a major contributor to the pollution in Delhi and its surrounding areas during the winter months due to the westerly winds blowing from northwest to south. Sources said that three farmers in Amritsar have even been penalised, while a “red entry” has been made in the land record of another farmer.
Tens of thousands of farmers burn the residue arising after the Kharif crop harvest since the window is often very short for the Rabi crop sowing. Rabi sowing begins in October end and November and is harvested in April.
Punjab Has Deputed About 10,000 Officials To Check Farm Fires
The Punjab government has deputed around 10,000 officials to keep a check on farm fires. This happened after the Centre rejected Punjab’s proposal to make a contribution to incentivise the farmers to ensure they don’t burn the paddy stubble. The state government had proposed to give Rs 2,500 per acre to paddy growers suggesting that the Centre pay Rs 1,500 per acre while Rs 1,000 per acre will be shared by Delhi and Punjab.
Despite Alternative Plan, Concern Remains
Meanwhile, Punjab and Delhi have come together to use Pusa bio-decomposer – a microbial solution that can help decompose paddy stubble in a fortnight on 5,000 acres of land. Also, 56,000 new paddy stubble chopper machines have been procured which are being handed over to the cooperatives at a hugely subsidised cost. Apart from it, 90,000 paddy stubble choppers are already there on the farms of Punjab distributed in the last four years.
But the biggest concern of the government is that despite the distribution of these machines, in the past four years the farm fires have only gone up. In the year 2017, the number of farm fires in Punjab was reported at about 45,300. In the following year, this number rose to 50,500. In the year 2019, the number of farm fires reported was 55,000, and in 2020, the data of farm fires recorded was 76,500. In 2021, the number of farm fires marginally went down to 71,000.