Poor Air Warn­ing

Delhi should help in­cen­tivise farm­ers to stop stub­ble burn­ing

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Epiphany Of Ideas -

The an­nual air pol­lu­tion dis­as­ter that as­sails the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion due to stub­ble burn­ing in the neigh­bour­ing states of Pun­jab and Haryana is al­most upon us. In fact, there are omi­nous signs with a clear spike in agri­cul­tural fires in Pun­jab. From Septem­ber 24-26, there were 107 fires in the state com­pared to just 11 fires dur­ing the same pe­riod last year. If the trend con­tin­ues, Delhi could again be­come a ver­i­ta­ble gas cham­ber around Di­wali on Oc­to­ber 27.

Although the Delhi gov­ern­ment has shown it is alert to the prob­lem a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to stub­ble burn­ing re­mains elu­sive. At the root of the prob­lem is eco­nomics. Burn­ing is the cheap­est and quick­est op­tion avail­able to farm­ers to pre­pare their land for the next sow­ing sea­son. Alternativ­es, avail­able in the form of ma­chines that cut and press crop stub­ble thereby elim­i­nat­ing the need for burn­ing, still aren’t cost ef­fec­tive and farm­ers re­main re­sis­tant. Con­sider how Pun­jab’s agri­cul­ture depart­ment has asked deputy com­mis­sion­ers to im­pound com­bine har­vesters with­out the su­per straw man­age­ment sys­tems (SMS) ma­chines. The lat­ter are add-ons that chop paddy straw into small pieces, paving the way for the use of happy seeder ma­chines that di­rectly sow wheat crop with­out hav­ing to clear the field through burn­ing.

How­ever, de­spite Pun­jab gov­ern­ment of­fer­ing 50% sub­sidy on the SMS ma­chines, many farm­ers re­main re­luc­tant be­cause at­tach­ing the sys­tem to com­bine har­vesters in­creases fuel con­sump­tion by 15%. In­stead, farm­ers are de­mand­ing a bonus of Rs 200 per quin­tal on paddy or com­pen­sa­tion of Rs 6,000 per acre to help them switch to alternativ­es. In such a sce­nario, Delhi gov­ern­ment should of­fer its own funds to Pun­jab and Haryana to in­cen­tivise their farm­ers to make the switch. Only a co­op­er­a­tive ap­proach can pro­vide a so­lu­tion to the sea­sonal air apoc­a­lypse.

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