Punjab, Haryana announce Rs 2,500 an acre incentive to stop stubble burning

Following the Supreme Court guideline to incentivise farmers for stopping the burning of paddy crop stubble to check air pollution, the  governments of Punjab and Haryana have announced a bonus of Rs 2,500 an acre for small and marginal farmers who are yet to start such activity.

Farmer groups say the incentives could have prevented farmers from burning stubble if it had come on time. More, they want the incentive to be a permanent feature.

In Madhya Pradesh, which has lately also seen growing instances of stubble burning, farmer groups have decided to petition the Court to include them as well in such a package.

In Haryana, the state government has announced an additional Rs 1,000 an acre incentive for custom-hiring centres and straw baler units, to support their operational costs. The Rs 2,500 an acre has been calculated by assuming 25 quintals of paddy is harvested from an acre of land in Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, news agency PTI reports that to claim the compensation, farmers have to fill a self-declaration proforma with their panchayat office by November 30. The amount would be directly credited to the bank account of the eligible farmer.

Uttar Pradesh, which also faces the problem of stubble burning has decided to set-up biofuel plants in each district, where farmers can sell their waste stubble for generation of electricity. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said two such units are coming up in Sitapur and Gorakhpur; this will be extended to other districts.

In Punjab, so far, around 48,000 incidents of farm fires have been reported this year, higher than last year. It was less in Haryana and UP. The total area under paddy in Punjab is around three million hectares, of which straw management is required on around two million. In the remaining areas, farmers have own arrangements for straw management. The state produces around 20 million tonnes of paddy straw each year.

In Haryana, the area under paddy usually is 1.3 million hectares, from which around 12 million tonnes of straw is produced every year.

This year, so far, officials said  of 2.9 million hectares in which paddy is sown, the crop has been harvested in almost 90 per cent of the area, which means that there is possibility of stubble burning in 10-15 per cent of the remaining area (30,000-35,000 hectares) if farmers don't absorb corrective measures on time.

“We feel the incentives announced by the state governments have come quite late in the day and would have made some impact if the decision was made some months back. Also, the compensation should not be restricted to small and marginal farmers — in Punjab, there are many who take 8-10 acres on rent and they won’t come under this,” said Omkar Singh Khaira, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal).

In the two states, he said, police cases have been registered against 48,000 farmers till now for stubble burning and penalty amounts worth lakhs imposed.

Meanwhile, air quality in the national capital remained in the ‘severe’ category on Thursday as the region continued to be shrouded by toxic smog. Schools in the Delhi region remained closed, in line withy a directive on Wednesday. 

The closure was recommended by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority. Schools would have otherwise marked Children’s Day on Thursday.

On the positive side, the data from the System of Air Quality  Forecasting and Research (set up by the ministry of earth sciences) shows the share of stubble burning in the air pollution of the National Capital Region has considerably gone down; it was only 13 per cent on Wednesday. However, it could also rise to 30 per cent in the coming days.

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