The Centre and state governments should provide equipment to farmers for free instead of subsidising them, a Rs 2,000 crore roadmap to end stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana has suggested. The plan suggests that the cost be recovered by imposing cess on sale of petrol and diesel in Delhi. The report terms as “perverse” the suggestion that farmers be provided subsidies to dissuade them from burning crop residue.
The report — submitted to the Supreme Court by an Amicus Curiae on November 17 in an ongoing case related to air pollution — also suggests that the best solution to avoid burning of crop residue is to till the straw back into the field using certain machines. Official estimates state that over 30 million tonnes of paddy straw are annually generated in Punjab and Haryana, which are later burnt by farmers to reduce turnaround time between harvesting paddy and sowing wheat crop.
“The Centre and state governments must provide machines free of cost to farmers to use. This requires largescale governmental procurement of the agricultural equipment, which should be given to every panchayat for common use,” the report states. It also states that the most “promising technologies” in this are Turbo Happy Seeder (THS), which allows for seeding without till and the Super Straw Management System (S-SMS) (developed by Punjab Agricultural University), which allows for straw to be spread on the field.
“The THS and S-SMS each cost between Rs 1.2 to 1.5 lakh. Given that there are roughly 13,000 panchayats in Punjab and some 6,500 in Haryana, if even three sets of these machines are given free to each panchayat, it would only require some Rs 2,000 crores to be spent in Punjab and Haryana (Punjab would need Rs 1,300 and Haryana Rs 650 crore),” the report states.
Harish Salve, the amicus curiae who works closely with the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), submitted the plan to the apex court.
The plan further suggests that the amount needed should be generated by imposing a pollution charge on the sale of petrol and diesel in Delhi, which it said will also help in reducing the differential between the prices of petrol and diesel, which continues to remain at about Rs 10 per litre because of taxes.
“The payment for this programme should come from a pollution charge on petrol and diesel fuel sold in Delhi. The objective of the charge should also be to reduce the differential between the price of petrol and diesel, which continues to remain at about Rs 10 per litre because of taxes. Currently, Delhi consumes 10 lakh tonnes of petrol and 13 lakh tonnes of diesel annually (2016-17). If a cess of Rs 1 is imposed on petrol; Rs 5 is imposed on diesel per litre then the city alone will contribute Rs 900 crore in one year,” the report states.