What should the government do to stop farmers from burning paddy stubble?
Make provision for effective machinery
That India is said to be the most polluted country in the world has raised a grave public concern. Every winter, thick clouds of toxic smog engulf Delhi and its surrounding areas. According to the recent American research group report, the alarming rise in the air quality index (AQI) in the wake of ongoing Covid pandemic will cause serious respiratory infection to residents and reduce life expectancy by nine years. Brazenly ignoring other reasons, the hard pressed farmers of Punjab, Haryana and UP are squarely blamed for this. With stress on increased agriculture production and the use of new technology machinery, a voluminous quantity of crop residue is generated each year. Just like China, Australia and many western countries, the National Green Tribunal and the apex court in India have prohibited stubble burning. But despite that, a vast majority of farmers resort to the traditional practice of stubble burning due to lack of labour, time and financial resources to prepare their fields for sowing wheat or potato. The parties in power are normally reluctant to strictly penalise the erring farmers because they are a strong vote bank. It is time to recognise the economic value of crop residue and convert it into the renewable energy, biochar, manure, paper and cardboard, biodegradable cutlery, packing material, etc. The government should make provision for sufficient affordable machinery such as reapers, rotavators, bailers and happy seeders, and enhance subsidies for their purchase. Moreover, farmers should be duly incentivised for growing crops that do not guzzle water. Let the governments at the Centre and in states, social and religious groups and non-government organisations make concerted efforts to take the discourse about field fires and worsening atmospheric pollution to its logical end.
Tajpreet S Kang
Educate farmers, don’t impose fines
It is better to educate farmers and highlight the demerits of stubble burning to them rather than imposing fines. The Punjab economy is based on agriculture and it is the only state which fulfilled the target of wheat for the whole country in the post-Partition era. It is the only state where the farmers yielded bumper crops to fulfill the needs of the whole of the country. Stubble burning pollutes environment and those who are allergic to respiratory diseases are always at the receiving end. As in India, the Health Department even though gives free medicine to the patients suffering from Tuberculosis (TB), some are allergic to asthma, bronchitis in the change of season or during the winters. It is up to farmers to take steps to tackle air pollution caused by stubble burning. The Union Government should give compensation to farmers and find alternative ways to deal with the stubble. Safety saves and educating farmers about the negative effects of stubble burning will certainly yield more effective results rather than imposing fines.
Rajat Kumar Mohindru
Expensive machines to blame for this mess
It’s true but unfortunate that out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, nearly half are in India. Industries, construction works and motor vehicles are the biggest polluters. During the lockdown and curfew last year, air was so clear that mountains could be seen from the distant planes of Jalandhar. No doubt, the coming harvesting season of paddy will cause much pollution resulting in respiratory and other health problems such as hypertension and heart diseases. As per the WHO figures, India has the highest number of deaths because of air pollution. The stubble burning is not the choice of farmers but a compulsion. More than 85% farmers have land holdings less than two hectares. As such they can’t afford the costly machinery such as happy seeder and others to avoid stubble burning. The onus clearly lies on the government to subsidise the farmers so that they can use these machines in their fields to mow the stubble into their fields which can be used as manure for subsequent crops. Farmers should also be encouraged to exit from the shackles of wheat-paddy cycle to indulge in cash crops such as pulses and horticulture. People would be well advised to use masks in those days and also to stay indoors as much as possible.
Dr JS Wadhwa
Provide interest-free loans to farmers
Stubble burning is a practice of intentionally setting fire to stubble, which is a crop residue. The government tried to restrict and ban the practice by imposing fine but it continued to go on for years. After Covid, most of the people have been suffering from breathing problems. The respiratory system is affected and aged people are at a higher risk. After the stubble burning, air quality and air pollution levels are bound to increase and the air quality is likely to fall. The government should keep a check and a strong vigil. First of all they should ask companies to modify the combine harvesters to tackle the issue. Provide interest-free loan to the farmers to buy combines as the economic conditions of them doesn’t allow them to use expensive methods to clear the field. Educate the farmers about the consequences because they themselves will suffer first convince them to understand the gravity of the situation and accept the alternate method to use stubble as fodder and fuel.
Rope in NGOs and cooperative societies
The unabated practice of stubble burning by the farmers in the Northern India is a serious challenge that needs to be tackled by the government, especially in view of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the recently enacted farm laws. The air quality index is worsening and it is a serious threat to the ongoing crusade against new variants relating to Covid-19 pandemic. Though the government has enacted laws and taken various measures to prevent the menace but the reports indicate that the incidence of stubble burning has increased substantially in spite of massive funds having been spent on subsidising the machinery to be used for prevention of burning the crop-residues. Even legal measures taken under the law could not bear the desired results. It is now proved that neither the subsidised regime nor the coercive measures could stop the farmers from burning straw. Under such a scenario, the strategy has to be urgently reviewed and reformulated to tackle the menace without losing time. The government needs to be proactive in taking both on-site and off-site measures with the help of NGOs and the farmers’ cooperatives. On-site measures include making available turbo happy seeder (THS) machines, enabling uprooting the stubble and simultaneously sowing the seeds for next crop, making the stubble as mulch for the field. Off-site initiative includes providing Pusa bio-decomposer for turning crop residue to manure. Another major off-site step is installing machinery for processing stubble into bio-fuels and bio-gas for which a cluster of five to six villages can be demarcated to procure the stubble from the farmers in exchange for energy and products to be created through biomass processing power technology.
Need to Adopt in-situ, ex-situ approach
Sadly, the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, who spearheaded the Green Revolution and replenished the country’s granary, are in the dock again for causing acute air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region that severely impacts human health and environment. Factors such as the use of insecticides, industrial waste, deforestation, disposal of garbage in the open, construction activities, dust, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and incineration, stubble burning, undoubtedly, contributes to the ever-declining air quality index but to a smaller degree. The poor and the marginalised farmers have neither the capacity nor the means to afford mechanical clearing of their fields for the next crop. Instead of imposing heavy fines on defaulters, there is an urgent need to understand the problems and compulsions of people actively involved in farm activities. The central and state governments, political parties, NGOs, religious bodies and civil society organisations should collectively run massive awareness campaigns against the ill-effects of stubble burning on soil and for farmers’ technical and economic empowerment. Crop residue is not a waste commodity; it is a wealthy asset which can be put to maximum use through proper in-situ and ex-situ stubble management under various schemes launched by the government. Besides producing renewable energy, making cattle feed, compost manure, paper, pulp, packing material and mushroom cultivation, farmers should be provided environment-friendly machinery at affordable rates. Because of their flawed implementation, various governmental initiatives have failed to achieve the desired results. All stakeholders, including farmers, industrialists and the general public, should realise that contaminated air can aggravate the spread of Covid-19 pandemic and take remedial measures to improve the quality of life and safety of citizens.
D S Kang
Need to find viable alternatives
Nature has bestowed us with several resources in a pure form to lead a smooth and superior life, but we go on exploiting these gifts recklessly. Although the causes of desecration of environment are many, yet the burning of crops residue in the fields is much in debate for the past few years. In fact, in the process of producing more food grains, there is also a colossal increase in bio-mass residue left in the fields upon harvest. Owing to brisk cropping cycle and lack of efficient bio-waste management, the farmers have to take extreme steps for readying the soil for the transplantation of next crop. Earlier, the stubble was grossly consumed for the manufacture of card-board, packaging material, as household fuel and cattle feeder etc but now-a-days it is used quite less as other variants have replaced it. Undoubtedly, pollution is a substantial hazard disturbing the ecological balances. During the winter season, when the pollution index is phenomenally high, it gives an abnormal rise to chronic diseases such as lung infections and other respiratory complications. NGT and SPCBs have taken several steps to protect environment, but the problem goes on escalating year-by-year. It is, therefore our solemn responsibility to be extra conscious to counter the menace and impending climate changes. Emphasising the significance of these natural resources, Gurbani exhorts human beings to accord utmost respect to it as: “Pawan guru, pani pita, mata dharat mahat”. Having known that survival is impossible without these gifts of nature, each one of us must make all out efforts to sustain them for present and future generations. Amid the measures to check pollution, the government ought to proactively chalk out a farmer-friendly plan for the suitable use of agricultural organic residue. The farmers can be placated through persuasion and incentivising them, instead of ordering heavy fines or curb farm-fires.
Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath
Wrong practice, don’t blame farmers alone
Air Quality Index (AQI) goes from bad to worse during festivities beginning from Dasehra and Diwali. So, why hue and cry when farming community burn their stubble? It does not mean I support them in this otherwise unwanted practice. The moot point is we all should play our role with responsibility and maturity for the betterment of our environment which consequently would gift us with clean and hygienic air making us live peacefully and harmoniously. At the same time, the farming community needs to be encouraged to adopt innovative ideas and ways to curb down the burning of stubble. First and foremost, hay banks should be set up. Instead of burning hay, it can be mixed and melded in the ground and left for some days to absorb sunlight and moisture in a natural way before sowing seeds for the next crop. The farmers should be given incentives and rewards, including public recognition for taking up progressive farming. There should be deterrence for the culprits belonging to every strata. Farmers should be given their due for which they have been struggling for decades. There is no need of corporate intervention in the agricultural sector. In addition, farm fairs should be organised where different farmers can share their diverse experiences educating one another for the benefit of all and sundry. Any activity which worsens the AQI, should be taken seriously and dealt with sternly.
Simranjeet Singh Saini
Educate farmers on bad effects of stubble burning
- The burning of straw and stubble of paddy and wheat is a perennial problem. The burning of stubble emits a large amount of pollutants, including toxic gases which are very dangerous to the human beings and the flora and fauna. Residue burning is a more economical and inexpensive as sufficient labour force is required to manually remove the residues
- But little do farmers know that this practice of stubble burning has been linked to increased asthma, cough and cold, choking of lungs and a myriad of other respiratory problems. Of course, there are some advantages of burning stubble as it kills weeds, slugs and other pests but it should be known that it also results in loss of nutrients, bad impact on soil microbes and reduction in soil structure
- Therefore, the government should create awareness among farmers about the negative impact of crop biomass burning and importance of crop residues incorporation in soil for maintaining sustainable agricultural productivity. Harvesters ought to be modified to tackle the root cause of the problem. It should be ensured that stubble burning is dealt in a scientific way Tarsem S Bumrah]
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