A day after farmers in Aklia village of Punjab’s Mansa district set crop stubble on fire in their fields, their counterparts in six more villages of the district followed suit. The farmers have said that they can shift to the more environmental-friendly option of ploughing fields only if they received subsidy from the government. The farmers have also told officials from the administration that they won’t be paying any fine and that they would stage protests if they were forced to.
On Monday, the Mansa district administration had called a meeting of farmer unions to discuss the burning of stubble the previous day. But while the meeting was on, farmers from Bhainibagha, Khaira Kalan, Ralla, Burj Dhilwan, Thutianwali and Fafde Bhaike villagers decided to set their crop stubble on fire.
“Teams from the SDM office, Punjab Pollution Control Board and the Fire Services visited all the villages. We told them that the farmers had taken the decision collectively. They conducted an inspection of the wheat fields where the stubble was burnt and left,” said Gora Singh, a resident of Bhainibagha village. “Stubble was set on fire across nearly 250 acres in each village,” he added.
Gora said the cost of ploughing land after harvest, including taking a tractor and rotavator on rent, would come to more than Rs 4,000 per acre. “Small farmers have no choice but to burn their stubble. If the Punjab government can provide us subsidy, we will be more than happy to get our fields ploughed instead of burning stubble,” he added.
Another farmer Balkarn Singh said, “Merely spreading awareness through mobile vans or loudspeakers does not help. We need a proper solution.” The state revenue department, meanwhile, is still carrying out an assessment of the area in Mansa village and is yet to impose any fine on the farmers.
Deputy Commissioner Dharampal Gupta, however, said, “We will fine the farmers flouting norms. We have asked them not to repeat this.” Dr Jasbir Singh, Director (Agriculture), said,”Our awareness drive will enlighten farmers about the environmental hazards of burning stubble. We have also sent a proposal worth Rs 358 crore to the Centre under which farmers who take environment-friendly measures are compensated.”