Asia

Why ‘cash for stubble’ couldn’t save Delhi from toxic air

CHANDIGARH/BHATINDA: “I could have got Rs 6,100 and would not have burned my field,” said Mohinder Singh while doing the calculation on his fingers. A week after the farmer in Bhamme Khurd village in Bathinda set his one hectare of land on fire, the Supreme Court directed Punjab, Haryana and UP governments to give Rs 100 for every quintal of paddy stubble to farmers to manage crop residue.
In another farm in Mansa districts Jhunir village, Sukhdev Singh is aware that burning stubble leads to toxic fumes in the air, it even makes the soil less fertile, but he said he didnt have another option. “It would have been better if the relief was provided in time,” he said.
Many farmers that TOI spoke to in several districts welcomed the apex courts decision to give them monetary aid — which many farmer organisations had been demanding for a long time — but admitted that it had come late. Farmers said that by now much of the non-basmati crop has been harvested and fields set afire to prepare for wheat sowing.
The Supreme Court had directed the three states on November 6 to dole out the money as operational costs to small and marginal farmers within seven days. With the money, farmers can hire straw management machinery to clear stubble instead of setting it on fire. Following the directives, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh ordered the agriculture department to work out the modalities.

But a week on, money is yet to reach farmers. Punjab agriculture secretary and nodal officer to curb farm fires, Kahan Singh Pannu told TOI that the scheme is under process and disbursal of funds would start soon. Pannu added that the cash incentive would be given to farmers with less than two hectares of land. “The state agriculture department has sought applications from farmers and village panchayats will also certify whether a farmer has burnt stubble or not,” he said.
The ideal time to sow wheat is until the second week of November, by which time 80% of the winter crop is sown. This is one reason why farm fires did not show a dip even after the scheme was announced. Farmers did not want to wait that long. Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) in Moga district, said, “While wheat can be sown later as well, late sowing can lead to decreased yield. So farmers are unlikely to wait for the cash to reach them.”
In Haryana as well, officials said disbursal of funds is likely to start by the last week of November. The state has earmarked Rs 50 crore for the purpose and appointed five financial commissioners to monitor the process.
To end the menace, experts have suggested that apart from the cash incentive, crop diversification could be a long-term solution. After the 1960s, when Green Revolution swept through the fields in northwest India, productivity of rice and wheat increased dramatically. In the past three decades, the land of “makki di roti” has continuously moved towards paddy. When the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy and maize for the 2018-19 kharif marketing season is compared, the gross returns per acre for paddy are Rs 14,000 higher than maize in Punjab. In the 2019-20 kharif season, 29.20 lakh hectaresRead More – Source

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