The Punjab government has issued instructions to all deputy commissioners in the state to immediately ban harvesting of paddy crop with the existing harvesting machines in all districts. Meantime, the Punjab Agriculture Department has also taken up the impossible task of convicing all the manufacturers and owners of harvesting machines in state to get a new equipment called the Super Straw Management System (SSMS) before upcoming paddy harvesting season with objective to make farmers stop paddy straw burning.
Harvesting machines manufacturers and machine owners have their reservations about the order as they claim that it would affect performance of their machines, and also increase the cost of harvesting at least by Rs 500 per acer. Cost of upgrading the existing harvesting machines with SSMS starts from Rs 1.5 lakh per machine.
However, biggest question is if the agriculture department has capacity and resources to install this system in all the machines before upcoming paddy harvesting season.
Manmohan Kalia, Joint Director, Agriculture, said, “There have been around 12500 harvesting machines in state. Around 5000 of these machines are tractor operative. This SSMS cannot be installed on such tractor operative machines and it can be installed only on rest of the 7500 harvesting machines. Instructions has been issued to all the deputy commissioners and work will start it from today to implement this decision.”
He said, “Manufacturers have reservations on this decision as they think that this system will affect the capacity of their machines. Besides owners of these machines will have to increase their charges by Rs 500 per acre, because it will reduce their daily harvesting capacity. Earlier, they have been charging Rs 1000 to Rs 1200 for harvesting of paddy crop now they may have to charge between Rs 1500 to Rs 1700 per acer from farmers.”
Main function of the new equipment is that it will harvest paddy in such a way that stems of the paddy plant will be cut in small pieces and spread equally in the field. Existing system make heaps of paddy straw and farmers find it easy to burn this straw. With equal spread in the field in small pieces, this paddy straw will create no problem for farmers in sowing paddy with happy seeder.
However, farmers will have to use happy seeder for wheat sowing after harvesting paddy with SSMA operative harvesting machine. “It is true that happy seeder will be the only best option to sow the wheat after harvesting paddy with SSMA machines,” said Kalia.
When asked if it would be possible to install such a costly equipment on all 7500 harvesting machines in coming three months, Kalia said,”We have started work on it and we are hopeful that we will do it.”
There are around 800 harvesting machines in Amritsar and 500 in Tarn Taran.
Ranbir Singh Randhawa, Engineer Implements Agriculture Department Amritsar, said,”We have been expecting that we will be able to convince 50 to 60 owners of harvesting machines to install SSMS in Amritsar district. There has been no subsidy on installing this system. But subsidy may be announced soon and we hope that we will able to pass this subsidy to at least 20 owners.”