- 15 injured as makeshift tent collapses during Modi's Midnapore rally, PM visits hospital.
- Our government working to double farmer income by 2022: PM Modi
- Journalist Upendra Rai arrested by CBI in fresh case of alleged corruption: Officials
- Kerala church scandal: SC to hear tomorrow anticipatory bail plea of priest
Delhi chokes, Haryana’s burning fields smoke
For the edification of those looking for the epicentre of the air pollution epidemic in the Capital, the stocks of (now banned) firecrackers in the cheek by jowl retail outlets of Chandni Chowk or the wholesale market of Sadar Bazaar are not where it’s at.
If you really want to know, ground zero for the smog enveloping Delhi-NCR with Diwali still six days away, is a nondescript village called Taraori in Haryana’s Karnal district. Crop stubble is being burnt night and day here, an activity which, along with the other fields set alight to clear crop residue for the next sowing season across rural Haryana and Punjab, is estimated to cause up to 35 per cent of the pollutants in Delhi’s air for a six-week period in winter.
And it’s an open secret in Taraori. “We need our land for vegetable cultivation. There is no other way available to us other than burning the paddy straw to clear our fields,” Ramnath Singh, a farmer, told The Pioneer, while sowing potatoes in his burnt out field. He is not alone. Vast tracts of agricultural fields have been set on fire by farmers in Karnal, Kurukshetra and Panipat who claim they are left with no other option but to burn the paddy stubble to prepare their fields for the next harvest.
Smoke billowing from burning paddy stubble had created a haze of smog that can be seen covering the sky and moving towards the national Capital. NASA images too show stubble burning going on in the fields of Haryana and Punjab, though the farmers claim ignorance for obvious reasons.
Off the record, Haryana farmers are adamant and say they will not abide by any administrative diktat to stop burning of paddy stubble, regardless of the fact that the level of pollutant values on the National Ambient Air Quality Index (NAQI) is becoming a serious concern for authorities.
SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), a unit of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) on Friday raised the red flag and marked the level of Suspended Particu-late Matters (SPMs) as “Red”.
All the farmers spoken to by The Pioneer were fully aware that burning paddy husk has been banned. And the authorities are making some efforts to check the practice. So the fields are now being set alight at night and the farmers feign ignorance when officials of the State Government tasked with preventing crop stubble burning arrive in their part of the world bright and early each morning.
It would, however, be too simplistic to make farmers the sole villains of the piece. They too have their livelihood concerns. Many of the farmers spoken to explained the rationale behind stubble burning. They said they do not have the money to invest in mechanised clearing of their fields and burning was the cheapest method. “If the Government and courts are really serious about preventing us from burning crop stubble we should be compensated for using other more expensive means of doing so,” said a farmer from Karnal who did not want to be named. “Paddy straw does not decompose on its own. We cannot remove it using tractors, and doing so manually is very, very expensive and time consuming,” he added.
Accepting that stubble burning is a major cause of pollution for the NCR, officials in Haryana said they have started to enforce the order against the practice. Karmchand, the Deputy Director (Agriculture) of Kurukshetra told The Pioneer, “In the rabi season of 2017, we penalised 54 farmers and the total penalty generated was Rs 1,45,000; in the kharif season of 2016, 207 farmers were penalised and we collected Rs 4,58,000 in fines.” Small recompense, that, for burning lungs. “Farmers are stubborn and burn agricultural waste as they want to prepare the land for cultivation in a short span of 24 hours,” Karamchand added.
According to another official, burning straw, husk or biomass started when agricultural labourers stopped working in private fields as they got paid more for working for the Government’s MNREGA scheme. According to one estimate, 33 per cent of all agricultural labourers have left their jobs to work on construction projects under MNREGA.
Farmers of Ramba, the village adjacent to Taraori, said in unison: “We cannot be bothered about your issues of air pollution when our survival is at stake. The authorities can arrest us or penalise us but we will not stop stubble burning. Added Ramesh, a local resident and farmer: “And why is the Government ignoring the pollution generated by rice mills? They too are responsible. Why are only farmers being targeted?”
There is, however, a silver lining albeit a faint one. In Barana, another village in Kurukshetra, farmers have set an example by adopting the modern agricultural methods. “With the use of rotators, reaper binders, reversible ploughs, mulchers and straw shedders farmers are being able to clear fields without generating pollution. But this is the exception rather than the rule.
- National database for gun licence holders, unique ID from next yr 17 Jul 2018 | PNS
- Air hostess’ husband arrested for dowry death 17 Jul 2018 | Staff Reporter
- Days after SC’s Taj rap, Centre to close polluting factories in Agra 17 Jul 2018 | PNS
- Delhi’s Airport Exp Line to get 36 new coaches 17 Jul 2018 | Rajesh Kumar
- States go under as monsoon rains woes 17 Jul 2018 | PNS
- 91 hurt as tent caves in at PM Midnapore rally 17 Jul 2018 | Saugar Sengupta
- Opp plans House strategy 17 Jul 2018 | PNS
- No claimants for India-linked dormant Swiss bank accounts! 16 Jul 2018 | PTI
- Reignited black beauties to tell story of India 16 Jul 2018 | Deepak Kumar Jha
- Won’t allow any terror activities against India: Bangladesh 16 Jul 2018 | PTI
Sunday EditionView All
15 Jul 2018 | PTI | New Delhi
Amid row over alleged use of derogatory language in a web series while referring to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the BJP and the RSS believe that freedom of expression must be policed, while he regards it as a fundamental democratic right. “My father lived and died in the service of India...
STATE EDITIONSView All
17 Jul 2018 | Staff Reporter | Bhopal
Phir Khule Akaash me Judde Ghataon Ke, Phir Hawaon Ke Dupatte Ho Gaye Jheene, a poetic event centered on creations about monsoon ‘Pranaam Pawas’ concluded in city. The event was organised by the Dushyant Kumar Memorial Manuscript Museum to welcome the monsoon season...