THE MUCH-TOUTED farm appliance, ‘Super Straw Management System (SSMS)’, has proved to be of little use in tackling the menace of paddy stubble burning despite the Punjab government promoting it majorly and also providing subsidy of Rs 50,000 on it. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had even issued an advisory pertaining to its use.
The system is being promoted by Punjab government to urge farmers ‘manage’ stubble at the time of harvesting itself instead of burning it. In Punjab, SSMS could be attached to only around 1,000 combine harvesters against the recommended 7,500 (Which comes to nearly 13 per cent of the required number) and those fitted could harvest paddy on 40,000 hectares (one lakh acres) across the state this season. Over 24 lakh hectares area was under paddy crop and as a result, only 1.6 per cent of the total paddy harvesting could be done with SSMS-fitted combine harvesters.
SSMS is attached at the rear of the combine harvester and it will cut the stubble into small pieces and spread evenly in the field after which farmers can sow wheat without setting the stubble on fire. The cost of a super SMS is Rs 1.25-1.50 lakh, which would be attached to already available combines. The cost of a combine is around Rs 18 lakh which will go up Rs. 19-19.50 lakh with this fitment.
In January this year, the Punjab government had passed an order that fitting SSMS was compulsory with all combine harvesters in Punjab but after farmers’ opposition for the same in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) government withdrew the order and then got issued an advisory from PPCB to all the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of the states in July this year (around two months before harvesting) that they should ensure to get fitted SMS with all the combine-Harveters in their respective districts. Authorities said although it was just a “baby step” to check the menace but some farmers, who were initially not keen on the system, have started moving towards adopting it.
“There are around 12,000 combine harvesters in Punjab, of which SSMS can be fitted only with 7,500 combines as the remaining are not fit for the same due to various reasons. And even if SSMS is attached to 7,500 combine harvesters, it would be more than sufficient to harvest paddy and wheat in Punjab,” said joint director-and-nodal officer for stubble management, Punjab agriculture, Manmohan Kalia. He added, “The attachment process began a few months ago and this year around 1,000 combines were covered. The remaining will be covered before next season.”
“Though given the figure, the area harvested through Super SMS fitted combines is quite less but still department feels that with such small steps it has been able to change the mind set of the farmers towards the machine which was totally rejected by them in the beginning,” said Director (Punjab agriculture) Dr J S Bains.Punjab has seen over 40,000 field fires till date during the paddy harvesting season this year. There was total around 29.25 lakh hectares under rice cultivation in Punjab this year, including over 4.50 lakh hectares under basmati rice and the remaining under parmal rice (Paddy). Basmati rice is harvested mostly manually and its stubble is used as fodder for cattle. As paddy stubble is not that popular for use as fodder, nearly 75 per cent of the total 197 lakh tonnes paddy stubble is burnt in fields.