Stumbling on stubble burning : The Tribune India

Stumbling on stubble burning

Blame game won’t help, work out viable solutions

Stumbling on stubble burning

Given the frustratingly tardy progress in the mission to curb stubble burning, a viable commercial model is being seen as a solution that could eventually bring a perceptible change. File photo



As crackers, farm fires and winds from the north-west combined to make Delhi’s air quality touch the ‘severe’ category the day after Diwali, a major share of the blame was put on stubble burning. Punjab woke up to ‘poor’ air quality, too, a tad better than the ‘very poor’ category last year, but the spectre of farm fires continues to loom large, amid a general sense of helplessness both among the farmers and the authorities. There is a ban on burning stubble or the residue left after paddy harvesting, but the violation is widespread. The solutions mooted so far do not seem to be working. The subsidy scheme for employing a stubble residual machine has had limited success; the cost doesn’t add up for a vast majority of small, marginal and medium farmers. Monetary penalties have failed to act as a deterrent.

A couple of years back, the Supreme Court’s suggestion to incentivise farmers with a cash reward was not found feasible. Given the frustratingly tardy progress in the mission to curb stubble burning, a viable commercial model is being seen as a solution that could eventually bring a perceptible change. Some private firms have taken the lead in Punjab in buying stubble from farmers to produce gas and other by-products in biogas plants. The ventures need encouragement. Delhi has claimed success with the use of bio-decomposers — the spray decomposes most of the stubble within 20-25 days — but in Punjab, where the gap for sowing wheat after the paddy harvest is narrow, the trials, at least, have not been as favourable as expected.

In the political slugfest on the issue and in the eyes of urban dwellers, the farmer is the culprit. The perception is that he simply does not care, even though the farmer and his family are the first victims of air pollution. Obduracy and a mental block are seen as the key roadblocks, but a simpler explanation could be his limited options. That calls for better, intelligent solutions, not a blame game that is of no help in confronting an existential issue.

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