Delhi’s air has yet again turned poisonous and, once again, Haryana and Punjab farmers are being blamed for that as they are burning stubble. Few bother to ask why these farmers dispose of their crop residue in such a manner, at the risk to their own health. The answer: Most do not have an alternative and there is need to clear the stubble in a short span of about a fortnight or so before they can sow the next crop.
This correspondent travelled to Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal and Kurukshetra and spoke to various farmers in the area who blamed the Government for not providing any solution to the issue. Though the State Governments of Haryana and Punjab have launched schemes and have assisted farmers in adopting the “in-situ” management of crop residue like the Custom Hiring Centers (CHC) but reality is that most of the farmers were unaware about the CHC and have no clue about where the nearest CHC is located and how to get the equipments related to Straw Management System (SMS) from there.
In Karnal, Sewa Singh Arya, national vice-president of one faction of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said the paddy had retained moisture due to recent rains and harvesting has been delayed. “Farmers will be forced to burn the paddy residue to clear the land for wheat. The majority of poor farmers are not in a position to get machinery to rid of the stubble even at subsidised rates,” said Arya.
“Also availability of happy seeder and other machines for stubble management with farmers and Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) established in the State are inadequate to manage nearly 70 lakh MT of stubble produced this season,” Arya explains.
According to an official in Haryana Government’s Agriculture Department, CHCs aim at ensuring proper management of crop residue and to prevent farmers from burning it. All machines and tools related to agriculture are claimed to be made available in these centers and farmers can take agricultural machines or equipments on rent at nominal rates for farming works.
Ramesh Battan, another farmer in Phurlak near Gharaunda, said that he sowed paddy on 32 acres and it would be ready for harvest in a few days. “The village has paddy on nearly 2,200 acres, but has only one happy seeder with a farmer and it can manage 6-7 acres in a day. The machine of Rs 1.50 lakh costs Rs 75,000 after subsidy. But it will be used only for six hours in the whole year. How can a farmer invest so much on a machine which is to be used for six hours a year?,” he asks.
However, the Government has assured that they were providing subsidies, but farmers allege that announcements remain only on paper. “There are no straw reapers even in nearby villages. We can’t wait as fields need to be prepared for the next crop cycle. Those who have these machines are busy in cutting their fields,” Gurdev Singh, a farmer at Dugari village in Ladwa near Kurukshetra, says.
“I have three acres of land. I can’t afford to buy or hire the machine. The department is advertising their CHCs but so far I haven’t seen any. I had contacted a nearby farmer who had bought the machine on subsidy but he refused to lend me as he is busy in cutting his crop. What option do I have but to burn it,” Sanjeev Mehla, a farmer at Gudha village, says.