Rs1,200 cr spent on farm machines, yet stubble burning on - ECAS Punjab

Rs1,200 cr spent on farm machines, yet stubble burning on

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Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 8

Punjab has 75,000 machines worth over 1,200 crore to manage the crop residue and yet it has witnessed over 60,000 farm fire incidents so far, highest in the past three years and more than the combined cases of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

As per official figures, a fine of Rs 2.11 crore has been imposed on erring farmers, but merely Rs 4.40 lakh has been realised from them.

Banking on 75,000 machines, the Agriculture Department had expected to manage stubble on 20 lakh hectares and around 40 per cent less cases of farm fires. But the things have turned out otherwise, with the surge in cases expected till Diwali night.

Punjab is providing 50 to 80 per cent subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment and have spent lakhs on awareness campaigns against stubble burning.

Senior officials say what is worrying is that despite the fact that the area under paddy has decreased by 2.5 lakh hectares due to crop diversification, the farm fire cases have increased. “With Punjab not objecting to crackers during Diwali, the air pollution is expected to peak and cause breathing problems to the elderly and children,” they fear.

Two days ago, the Punjab Government told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that there was no need for a ban on the use of fire crackers. This, despite the fact that the air quality has been recorded poor in the state, worst in some districts, in the past fortnight.

Farmers are burning the crop residue in their fields along the state and national highways. The smoke emanating from the fields is causing inconvenience to travellers on the highways early morning and in evenings as visibility is reduced to almost zero.

“Erring farmers, backed by farmer unions, refuse to deposit the fine and even take officials hostage. Investigation in many cases is still pending as the farmer unions have threatened agitation, if their members are harassed,” said a senior official. “Due to to no political will, officials concerned can’t take harsh measures,” he said.

from The Tribune

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