Despite declaring that it is serious about controlling paddy stubble burning, the Punjab government is sitting on applications for subsidy by farmers who want to buy the ‘baler’ — an agriculture equipment used to bale paddy straw for later use.
Nearly 100 applications for seeking subsidy of balers are lying pending in the office of agriculture department since March.
The baler is an agriculture machine that cuts the remains of crop from the root. The bales can be sold off to cardboard factories and biomass power plants at the rate of about Rs 150 per quintal. Apart from controlling pollution, bales can provide an additional income to the farmer.
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Punjab began giving subsidy for balers from year 2013-14. But only 107 balers are in use in various parts of Punjab. One baler costs about Rs 10 lakh and the government subsidises it to up to Rs 4.5 lakh. “Only when the [application] file is okayed, does a farmer decides to buy such a costly machine, rather than buy the machine first and then apply for the subsidy,” said Amarjeet Singh, village Bhurekalan in Ferozepur, who will harvest his paddy crop in another two weeks.
Avtar Singh. President of Chamber of Industrial and Commercial undertakings (CICU), said: “As per the feedback by many of our CICU members who are running agriculture equipment units, delay in release of subsidy does not give any clarity as how much stock they should make. Though there are few other equipment such as paddy straw chopper shredder but it does not clear the land fully after harvesting and hence its success rate is not that high as that of a baler.”
Some 300 paddy straw chopper shredders are in use in Punjab. The cost of a shredder is Rs 2.3 lakh, of which Rs 1 lakh is underwritten by Punjab government.
Dr Jasbir Singh, Director (Agriculture), Punjab admitted there was a delay in disbursement of subsidy for balers. “We are hopeful to get funds for this soon as Rs 10 crore is earmarked for this,” he said. In subsidy of balers, 60 per cent of the funds come from the Centre under Rajiv Gandhi Krishi Vikas Yozna (RKVY) while the rest is contribution of state.