As paddy harvesting has gathered momentum in Punjab, as many as 3,307 Stubble Burning Cases have been reported till October 21, as against 2,564 incidents in the corresponding period last year.

  • Stubble burning has been a key contributing factor to pollution in the air and breathing problems among people across the northern region, including New Delhi.
  • The reason behind the higher number of fire cases has been the decision to advance the date of paddy sowing this season, a week earlier than the scheduled date of June 20.
  • Meanwhile, the State government has so far not issued any ‘challan’ to those farmers who have been defying the ban on stubble burning.
  • The ban and action against people burning crop residue are regulated under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Stubble Burning Cases Why Punjab and Haryana contribute to stubble burning cases?

  • In the 1960s, wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in food grain production.
  • Besides, Punjab enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period.
  • A shorter period of sowing days prohibits transplantation before a notified date, which in turn limits the window available for harvesting paddy to between 15 and 20 days.
  • As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and maintain crop yield find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution.

What are the challenges in addressing stubble burning?

  • Farmers have already made investments in seed drill machines for sowing wheat after paddy harvest.
  • Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers.
  • Even if the machine is available at a subsidized rate of nearly Rs.1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance.

What measures need to be taken?

  • Crop diversification - The government encourages crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops by extending price incentives and better marketing facilities.
  • Efficient Policies - The policy of a ‘price deficiency system’ as initiated in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh should be adopted to strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops.
    • Another option is to replicate the Telangana model of providing farmers investment support of Rs. 8,000 per acre each year and withdraw price-based support.
  • Rental Services - A feasible remedy could lie in the setting up of custom hiring centers or inviting companies to make investments for rental purposes.
    • If the state provides an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements and earn additional income there are examples of this in Nigeria and also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
    • It would avoid stubble burning and at the same time make farming more mechanized, cost-effective and a source of employment.
  • Sustainable Policies - Another far-sighted approach could be an ineffective use of paddy straw.
    • The residual has used, such as in paper, cardboard and packing material making and also hydroseeding (deliberated rice straw can be used in hydroseeding for erosion control).
    • Farmers, who have already been sensitized to refrain from the burning residue, should be given options such as biomass generation.
    • The government should use geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe and encourage the installation of biomass plants at such locations.

Also read: Punjab records 45% increase in farm fires Jute Industry Told To Step Up Supply Of Sacks For Kharif Crop