On average, Haryana sees 100 stubble fires per day; farmers blame govt

Farmers in Haryana have begun to set their paddy fields on fire as harvesting has picked up. On an average, 100 fire cases are reported per day across the state and this number will multiply

IANS Photo
IANS Photo


Farmers in Haryana have begun to set their paddy fields on fire as harvesting has picked up. On an average, 100 fire cases are reported per day across the state and this number will multiply in the days to come, with Kaithal, Karnal and Kurukshetra being hotspot districts.

The farmers blame the government. They say the machines provided by it are costly and not easily available for in situ management of stubble, a major cause of air pollution in Delhi and surrounding cities.

The impact of farm fires has been visible on Delhi's air quality. The AQI of the Delhi-NCR region is getting worse and will deteriorate post-Diwali.

To discourage the farmers from burning the residue, the government has been giving incentives and taking punitive steps. It offers an incentive of Rs 1,000 per acre for baling the stubble along with transportation charges of bales at Rs 500 per acre.

In Haryana, where incidents of stubble burning are significantly lower than that in Punjab, paddy is grown in about 4,800 villages. These villages largely fall in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad, Kaithal, Jind and Sirsa districts.

Under in situ management, 23 lakh metric tons (MT) crop residue is being utilised through various machines and decomposers, and 13 MT under ex-situ management.

The Manohar Lal Khattar-led government is planning to buy paddy straw at the minimum support price (MSP).

Farmers are being continuously made aware of the ill-effects of stubble burning, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Department told IANS.

Paddy is currently sown over 34 lakh acres in Haryana. Out of this, 57 per cent of the area is under basmati which matures two weeks later than the non-basmati type.

Incidents of farm fires suddenly spiked in the past one week and will continue to rise as the state has reported 664 incidents of stubble burning till October 20. However, the incidents were far less than the 1,237 that were reported till this day last year.

Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) data says the state reported 6,987 incidents of farm fires in the Kharif harvesting season of 2021 against 9,898 in 2020, registering a dip of 30 per cent in one year.

Farmers in the state, however, are showing the way in stubble management.

Taking the lead, a handful of farmers are opting for traditional manual methods of harvesting that are enabling them to protect the environment by minimising burning of crop residue.

This is also helping the farmers earn additional income.

Farmers of several villages in Karnal district are not burning the wheat and paddy stubble. The reason -- they are manually harvesting it and selling it to other farmers for use as fodder.

In this way, each farmer is earning Rs 5,000 per acre from selling paddy straw, say agricultural experts.

The manual harvesting is helping meet the demand for dry fodder.

Since 2020 the state government's scheme "Mera Pani Meri Virasat" is helping to minimise the burning issue. Under the scheme, farmers are provided Rs 7,000 per acre if they diversify more than 50 per cent of the land that they use to grow paddy.

While the scheme is aimed at saving water, experts say crop diversification from rice will help the stubble problem.

Grower Naresh Kainth of Kurukshetra told IANS that the machines provided by the government are not easily available for management of stubble.

He said: "The farmers are aware about the ill-effects of stubble burning. They also fear action for violation. The solution to the problem lies with the government to incentivise small and marginal farmers for hiring or purchasing machines to manage the residue."

As per the government, a total of 72,777 machines have been provided to farmers through custom hiring centres and individually for stubble management in the past four years.

This year 7,146 machines have been made available and these include baling unit, super seeder and zero till seed-cum-fertilizer drill.

Like "Mera Pani Meri Virasat", the state has introduced "Kheti Khaali, Fir Bhi Khushali" scheme. The latter scheme fetches Rs 7,000 per acre incentive to farmers, if they do not grow any crop in their field during the paddy season.

In another push towards switching over to alternative crops in place of water guzzler crops, the government is providing Rs 10,000 as incentive to farmers adopting agroforestry for three years.

The schemes are basically aimed at saving water. Experts told IANS that crop diversification from rice will largely help solve the stubble problem.

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