Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, September 12
The government’s scheme to incentivise farmers by giving them Rs 1,500 per acre for the scientific management of paddy stubble is hanging fire because of the huge cost of its implementation and the refusal by the Centre to chip in by sharing part in this cash incentive.
The issue was brought up for discussion at the last meeting of the Punjab Cabinet, but was shelved. Official sources say that the reason was the massive cost involved in giving the subsidy, considering the state’s precarious fiscal health.
It was estimated that the cost of giving subsidy to farmers could cross Rs 1,100 crore and it would be difficult to assess how many farmers actually did not burn stubble, observed the Council of Ministers.
The Department of Agriculture was thus asked to re-work the scheme. The neighbouring Haryana gives Rs 1,000 per acre cash incentive to such farmers.
As a result, the state government is again relying majorly on the in-situ stubble management once the paddy harvesting begins next month, besides encouraging the ex-situ stubble management.
“We hope to substantially reduce the stubble burning incidents this time as we are working on a multi-pronged strategy of going in for the in-situ management, promoting the ex-situ management and also encouraging crop diversification,” Special Chief Secretary, Development, KAP Sinha said.
Interestingly, after offering a plethora of equipment for the in-situ stubble management, the government is now giving a push to use another equipment - surface seeders for the in-situ management. The only problem with this is that farmers are questioning the government’s push for this equipment, especially when they have several other equipment like super seeders, happy seeders, straw mulchers, paddy straw coppers etc, purchased over the years. Between 2018-22, the Centre has given out Rs 1,370 crore to Punjab for subsidy on buying the equipment.
Kulwant Singh, secretary of the Kishangarh Sedhasinghewala Agricultural Cooperative Society in Mansa district, said the government was asking all societies to buy one of two surface seeders each. “The forms are filled on our behalf by government officials and we are being told to purchase this for the society as there is additional subsidy if this equipment is purchased by the cooperative society. The society has to pay Rs 15,000 for one surface seeder, whose cost otherwise is Rs 80,000. If a farmer was to buy it, it would have cost him Rs 40,000 after getting 50 per cent subsidy,” he said.
Sinha, however, denied that anyone was being forced to buy the equipment. Till date, the state government has received 7,000 applications for buying surface seeders, though it is proving to be an uphill task to manufacture as many machines and provide them to the applicants before paddy harvesting starts next month.
22 MT of stubble expected
- Paddy crop grown on 32 lakh hectare in the state this year
- 22 million tonnes of stubble expected after harvesting gets over
- Last year, 49,900 incidents of farm fire reported in Punjab alone
- To stop stubble burning, focus on both in-situ and ex-situ stubble management
- Coop societies asked to buy surface seeders
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