Despite a statewide awareness drive, farmers not only continue to burn stubble in their fields after harvesting wheat ahead of the paddy sowing season beginning June 10, but most of them have also refused to pay fine for burning stubble, forcing the authorities to almost suspend the fine collection drive. During the wheat harvesting in April-May this year, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has imposed a fine on farmers totalling Rs 61.32 lakh, of which it has recovered Rs 18 lakh so far.
More than 11,000 cases of wheat stubble burning were reported this year. During paddy harvesting season in October last year, a total of Rs 73.22 lakh in fine was imposed on farmers, of which only Rs 14.05 lakh was recovered. PPCB says the revenue department has been asked to collect the fine, but farmers are in no mood to pay.
Arunjeet Singh Miglani, chairman of PPCB, said, “We have asked the deputy commissioners of the districts concerned to collect the fine through the revenue department. However, we are aware that farmer unions are not allowing defaulters to pay the fine. Officials are persuading the farmers to pay the fine rather than forcing them to do so to avoid any law and order problem.”
Miglani said his department’s officers had been gheraoed at a number of villages when they had gone to collect fines. “We are rather thinking of how to curb stubble burning from the next season and have taken up the matter with the Centre. The proposal is to give special incentives to villages which do zero stubble burning, apart from compensation to farmers per acre for not doing so. I believe this will curb stubble burning drastically in the coming paddy season.”
Jhanda Singh Jethuke, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “No farmer will pay fine, come what may. The government needs to give us alternative ways rather than imposing fines on us.”
Although a number of progressive farmers have stopped stubble burning altogether and in fact claim this has even enhanced yield, farmer unions have been seeking compensation in the range of Rs 5,000- 6,000 per acre for a farmer to shun this practice.