Ahead of paddy harvesting in state, the Punjab government, which has been under fire from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for some time, has asked the state’s agriculture department to introduce a mobile app to provide farmers information about the availability and use of machinery meant for “stubble management” so that they do not set fields on fire. The paddy harvesting would start by the end of this month.
Sources said the mobile app will be on the lines of Ola cab app, using which farmers can get information on availability and use of such machinery across the state. It is also learnt that “machinery banks” would be developed in the state to discourage stubble burning. Despite filing cases and imposing fines on farmers for burning “crop residue”, the state government has little success in its efforts to stop stubble burning and curb pollution.
In Punjab, rice is cultivated on around 29-30 lakh hectares, of which 25 lakh hectares go under paddy (Parmal rice) and remaining under ‘Basmati’. Basmati rice stubble is used for making ‘fodder’, but in case of paddy, farmers burn it in the fields to prepare it for the next crop. Following NGT order against stubble burning, the Punjab government is faced with a huge challenge to manage around 197 lakh metric tonnes of paddy stubble, out of which 70 to 75% is burnt in the fields only.
State’s director (agriculture) Dr Jasbir Singh Bains said the government had directed the district administration to implement a three-year “updated action plan” to stop crop residue burning by farmers and directed the agriculture department to come up with a mobile app, which would be launched for providing information to farmers on “available machinery through cooperative societies, farm machinery banks and individual owners having invested money on equipment”.
During the wheat harvesting season in April-May this year, Punjab detected 788 field fires through satellite images in just one month and more through district-level committees. As many as 226 errant farmers faced fines totalling Rs 8 lakh and several were booked too. Most cases were reported from Mansa, Barnala and Firozpur districts. These districts would be under scanner, said officials.