Patiala, November 17
Though Patiala district has witnessed 1,819 cases of farm fires till November 17, the police have registered 39 FIRs in this regard. Of these, 38 FIRs have been filed against unidentified persons.
A police official on condition of anonymity said there had been instances wherein rival groups had set crop residue on fire to settle personal score.
“No government can afford to anger farmers by registering FIRs as they are a major vote bank,” quipped the police official.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta- Ugrahan), said, the Centre and the state government had been blaming farmers for air pollution, but nobody was willing to offer a solution.
He said farmers had to set stubble on fire out of compulsion as majority of them can’t afford expensive equipment to manage residue.
Due to delayed harvesting season, farmers are racing against time to take produce to grain markets and prepare their fields for sowing of wheat between November 1 and November 20.
At several places, private lifting agencies did not turn up to collect bales from fields, thus leaving farmers with no choice but to set the residue on fire.
“Instead of providing stubble management machines, the government is blaming farmers for burning straw. Last year, the National Green Tribunal had instructed the state government to provide equipment free of cost to farmers having a land holding less than five acres, but nothing happened,” said Kokri Kalan.
Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary BKU (Lakhowal), said, “A small farmer neither has money nor machinery to ship residue to processing units. Even the companies involved in collecting paddy residue do not visit small farmers. This leaves them with no other alternative but to set fields on fire. A farmer needs to spend up to Rs 4,500 on fuel for in situ crop residue management.”
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