Punjab sees 3,634 farm fires in a day


As part of its efforts to reduce field fires, the Punjab government may have distributed 1.05 lakh machines (on subsidy basis) to farmers under the crop residue management (CRM) scheme of the central government to date and the state may have launched several awareness programmes to sensitise the farmers to the problems of stubble burning, but there is no proportionate decrease in farm fires on the ground, if data from the Ludhiana Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) is anything to go by. According to satellite images recorded by PRSC, from September 15 to November 2, the state recorded 21,480 stubble fires, including 3,634 cases on Wednesday itself. Out of these, 11,266 (52%) farm fires were recorded in the past five days from October 29 to November 2.

The state recorded 17,921 farm fire cases in the corresponding period (from September 15 to November 2) last year.

More stubble burning cases are expected in the coming days because of the ongoing wheat sowing period, which has already begun in the state from the last week of October. The recommended period for wheat sowing in the state is from November 1 to November 15. This year the state will distribute 32,000 more machines, out of which 15,000 have already been distributed to the farmers and the remaining will be given in the coming days. This will take the total number of machines distributed in the state to 1.22 lakh, including 90,422 machines distributed in 2021.

Highlighting impunity as one of the major reasons for rising stubble burning cases in the state, experts said that there is lack of fear of law on the part of farmers.

“The government is in no mood to take strict action against those burning stubble. Recently, the government gave it in writing to the protesting farmers in Sangrur that ‘no strict action will be taken against farmers caught burning stubble’. As the government is not strict, there is no fear in the minds of violators. In fact, after this assurance from the government, the stubble burning cases have increased manifold in the state,” said a senior officer in the Punjab Agriculture Department. “We had put a lot of effort to control farm fires, organised 3,000 farm awareness camps and distributed machines but in vain,” said another senior officer.

Sources said that more than 18% of government employees own big and small farmlands in the state. Majority of them have given their lands on contract to other farmers. If the state asks these government employees to keep a tab on farm fires at least on their land, it will drastically reduce the stubble burning cases. But the government has not taken any such step, the sources added.

Many farmers who bought the machines under the CRM scheme are themselves burning their fields and using these machines to sow wheat. “In our village and the surrounding villages a number of big farmers owning machines like super seeder are burning their stubble. What is the purpose of this machine then,” said Jagdeep Singh, a farmer from Kanoi village in Sangrur. “If you take a survey, you will find big farmers owning such machines resorting to stubble burning, but unfortunately, the small and marginal farmers are mostly blamed for it,” he added.





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