ECONOMY
Paddy is ready for harvest, so is confrontation
- By Devinder Sharma
Paddy is ready for harvest, so is confrontation



(These are excerpts from the author’s article that appeared in the Hindustan Times today. For the complete article, please see the link at the bottom of these excerpts. – Ed.)

 
Not to take any more risk with human health, the Supreme Court has reinstated the ban it imposed on sale of fire crackers in the Delhi-NCR region.
 
The "direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels” that the Supreme Court cited to justify the ban has another player. Paddy stubble burning by farmers during the same period in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and in the outskirts of Delhi, has also been blamed for chocking the Capital.

What forces farmers to burn the paddy stubbles is the short window available between the harvesting of paddy and the sowing of the next wheat crop. It leaves him little option but to burn the crop residues, but instead of helping the farmers, the entire effort is to coerce them into submission.
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Instead of helping the farmers, the entire effort is to coerce them into submission. Why can’t a proportion of the Rs 50,000-crore proposed economic stimulus package be used for address the problem of stubble burning? It is a question of priorities.
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An estimated 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt in Punjab alone. 
 
As the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had observed: "70% of the land covered by agricultural activity was put on fire by the farmers of Punjab who burnt farm residue,” further adding that stubble burning shoots up the carbon dioxide levels in the air by 70%. 
 
Farmers are aware of the environmental fall-out. But they need monetary help. Instead of providing any financial support, farmers who continue to resort to burning of paddy straw are being penalised, put behind bars, and threatened with withdrawal of farm subsidies. 
 
The farming community is furious. Agitating farmers have now openly flouted the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on burning of paddy straw, and a direct confrontation between the agitating farmers and the government is on an anvil. The confrontation is likely to worsen in the days to come.

Stubble burning is a socio-environment problem, and the society has to share the burden. Why can’t a proportion of the Rs 50,000-crore proposed economic stimulus package be used for address the problem of stubble burning?

It is a question of priorities. 
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The farming community is furious. Agitating farmers have now openly flouted the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on burning of paddy straw, and a direct confrontation between the agitating farmers and the government is on an anvil.
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There are two immediate steps the NGT need to ensure. First, ask the government to provide a compensation of at least Rs 200 per quintal to paddy farmers. 
 
Also, there is no need to provide any more subsidies for machines like Happy Seeder, Straw Reeper, Chopper, Rotavator etc. Leave it to the farmers. 
 
Secondly, make it mandatory for the combine harvester machines to incorporate a bailer, which harvests and bales in one pass. If only NGT had tried to make it mandatory for the combine harvesters to bring in the new technology, crop burning would have been easily relegated to the past.
 
(NOTE - The complete article appeared in the Hindustan Times and can be accessed here – Editor)
 


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