Cen­tre’s plan to check stub­ble fire ready, but burn­ing issues re­main

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HTPUNJAB - Gur­preet Singh Nib­ber

CHANDI­GARH: Even as the Union gov­ern­ment has sanc­tioned Rs 395 crore to boost use of ma­chin­ery in Pun­jab to process crop residue than burn it, par­tic­u­larly af­ter paddy har­vest in Oc­to­bernovem­ber, the state has a tough task cut out — mo­ti­vat­ing farm­ers to buy the ma­chines.

The Cen­tre has asked Pun­jab to spend Rs 30 crore on awareness, and the re­main­ing on sub­sidy on ma­chines such as happy seeder, zero till drill, chop­per­shred­der and mulching ma­chine — 80% for groups and so­ci­eties, 50% for in­di­vid­ual farm­ers. To­tal out­lay for the two-year pro­gramme is Rs 665 crore; the re­main­ing Rs 270 crore will come next year. The state gov­ern­ment is tar­get­ing 2,000 profit-mak­ing co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­eties for the sub­sidy at first. And the Union agri­cul­ture min­istry is now fi­nal­is­ing a panel of ven­dors to sell the ma­chines. Sub­sidy will go di­rectly to the ven­dors while the farm­ers, who have to ap­ply to the agri­cul­ture di­rec­torate for the scheme, will pay the rest.

The prob­lem of stub­ble burn­ing has been re­cur­ring de­spite prom­ises and an­nounce­ments by the states and Cen­tre. Af­ter the paddy har­vest sea­son two years ago, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) asked the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment to take cor­rec­tive steps, es­pe­cially af­ter smoke said to be em­a­nat­ing from Pun­jab and Haryana en­gulfed Delhi and the rest of the na­tional cap­i­tal re­gion. Last year the Supreme Court asked the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice to in­ter­vene, af­ter which the funds were sanc­tioned.

“Of 22 mil­lion tonnes of stub­ble pro­duced, 5 mil­lion gets man­aged, and the re­main­ing is the prob­lem. Of this, 6.5 mil­lion will be man­aged as per the pro­gramme,” said Man­mo­han Kalia, a joint di­rec­tor-rank of­fi­cer with the state agri­cul­ture di­rec­torate. On the awareness front, he said, the gov­ern­ment will re­cruit vol­un­teers from among stu­dents at the Pun­jab Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity (PAU). Be­sides the univer­sity and the di­rec­torate, the Pun­jab State Farm­ers’ Com­mis­sion too will be roped in to clear doubts, he added.

‘IN­CLUDE IN MSP TOO’

Farm­ers, how­ever, want the ex­pen­di­ture to be borne by the gov­ern­ment, say unions. “Farm­ers are not ready to take any ad­di­tional bur­den,” said Bir Dalvin­der Singh, a farmer in Nabha, who was made to rep­re­sent the state’s farm­ers be­fore the NGT by the gov­ern­ment.

“Also, if ma­chines are given on sub­sidy, who will pay for the cost to op­er­ate and main­tain them?” he asked

He de­manded that the min­i­mum sup­port price (MSP) for crops in­clude funds for stub­ble man­age­ment, “or there should be Rs 100 per quin­tal bonus on paddy if the ex­pen­di­ture is not in­cluded in MSP”.

On this, Pun­jab’s ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary, agri­cul­ture, Vishav­jeet Khanna said his depart­ment has asked the Com­mis­sion for Agri­cul­tural Costs and Prices (CACP) to give post-har­vest

in­cen­tive of Rs 100 per quin­tal to farm­ers who don’t burn stub­ble. “CACP has agreed to in­clude the cost of stub­ble man­age­ment in the MSP; it is to be seen how much they of­fer,” he said, adding, “It is ex­pected to an­nounce the MSP for paddy very shortly. We have sought seg­re­ga­tion of this cost from the MSP as such.” He urged farm­ers to adopt mech­a­nised stub­ble man­age­ment: “It will im­prove soil health and give higher yield.”

But Bhupin­der Singh Mann, who heads a fac­tion of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), told HT that in the past prices of ma­chines avail­able on sub­sidy were in­flated.

“Even af­ter get­ting sub­sidy, price re­mains the same as it ac­tu­ally is. Also, af­ter help­ing farm­ers in the pur­chase, the gov­ern­ment can’t get rid of the re­spon­si­bil­ity. It should give long-term sup­port,” he added.

IN LET­TER TO PM, CM SAYS RE­QUESTS FROM STATE GOV­ERN­MENT FOR NA­TIONAL­LEVEL DEBT WAIVER HAVE NOT GOT EN­COUR­AG­ING RE­PLY

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