Punjab govt. to pay ₹2,500 per acre to stop stubble burning

While the Punjab government has decided to pay ₹2,500 per acre as compensation to small and marginal farmers, who have not burnt paddy residue in the ongoing harvesting season, farmers’ unions and agriculture experts feel that the move may not fetch the desired results.

“The government’s decision would only have a limited benefit… They have announced to give compensation to farmers who own land up to five acres, but what about others? If any farmer has even a little over five acre then compensation will not be given, what’s the point of putting conditions? The government should compensate every farmer otherwise the desired result will not be achieved,” said Harinder Singh, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (Lakhowal).

Mr. Singh said FIRs registered against farmers for defying the ban on stubble burning should also be immediately withdrawn.

The government data shows that between October 1 and November 13, as many as 48,689 cases of farm fires were reported in Punjab. Last year, during the same period there were 44,845 such incidents.

Sangrur district has seen the highest number of farm fire incidents at 6,558, while Bathinda with 5,522 is in the second spot. Firozpur recorded as many as 4,537 cases to be placed third on the list, according to the Punjab Pollution Control Board.

Stubble burning, close to the autumn season every year, has been a key contributing factor to air pollution across the northern region, including Delhi.

For management of paddy straw, the Centre and the State government are providing subsidised agro-machines and equipment to farmers and cooperative societies to achieve zero burning, yet farmers continue to burn the crop residue claiming lack of alternatives.

‘Not a lasting solution’

Lakhwinder Singh, professor of Economics at Punjabi University, Patiala, who has been mapping rural Punjab for decades, also feels that the State government’s decision to pay compensation is not a long-lasting solution to the problem.

“The compensation amount is good but it’s not a permanent solution. Let’s say even if all farmers are given compensation and they don’t burn the residue… They collect it then what next? What will they do? How will they dispose it? The solution lies in alternative uses of residue for which the State government needs to infuse investment,” said Mr. Singh.

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