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Directionless on farm fires

Stubble burning is an economic issue and not a law-and-order problem for the police to handle

Directionless on farm fires

Picture for representational purpose only.

Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (Retd)

We were raising an infantry division in the early 1980s. The General Officer Commanding (GOC), who was posted to raise it, was well known for his innovative thinking. I was heading the operational staff at the headquarters.

A VIP scheduled his visit to one of our brigades. The staff officer issued a letter to the brigade, asking them to ensure proper arrangements for the visit. This was the kind of language one had seen routinely being used in service and it raised no eyebrows.

The GOC called a staff conference. Referring to the letter, he asked, “What exactly do we mean by proper arrangements?” There was silence in the hall. “Are there any improper arrangements also?” Giving time for the point to sink in, he switched to guidance mode: “We need to be specific and lay down what those ‘proper arrangements’ imply. These may include: who will receive; anyone from the civil administration to be called; any need for a spare staff car; piloting arrangements; protection; communications; traffic control…” He gave out a host of points that should be conveyed to guide the lower formation. “Directionless orders have no meaning,” he concluded. It was a great lesson for us.

It comes to mind in the context of stubble burning. Undoubtedly, biomass burning — mainly stubble burning — is the chief pollutant, contributing some 37.85 per cent of the air pollution in the national capital. But the problem is not new. It happens every year around this time. By way of controlling it, we mainly see adjectives flying about.

The Cabinet Secretary is told to take urgent steps to stop stubble burning. He pulls up the state government and asks the Chief Secretary to take effective steps to control farm fires. The latter directs the Deputy Commissioners. The matter finally stops at the police SHO. He understands the importance and is aware of the higher authority directions for taking prompt/effective/urgent/permanent action. But no one has told him what concrete steps to take. His only tool is lodging an FIR. He is convinced that this is not the solution but does not know what else to do. Quite often, himself being the son of a farmer, his dilemma is even deeper.

The farmer needs his land for the next crop. Land is not available till stubble is removed. Every day’s delay means an economic loss to him. Instead of the ‘directionless’ orders down the chain, we should focus on our agricultural scientists finding some use of the stubble, such as mulching, composting, no-till farming, incorporation into soil enriching it with organic matter, biogas production, integrating it into agroforestry, etc. Simply blaming and berating the farmer hasn’t helped and is unlikely to. 

#Agriculture #Environment #Farm Fires #Pollution #Stubble Burning

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