With farmers in the Majha region, comprising Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Pathankot and Gurdaspur districts, harvesting an early variety of Basmati rice (Pusa 1509), the state has already recorded 106 field fires in the past seven days (September 15 to September 21) including 56 on Wednesday.
This not only lays bare the state government’s claim of being well prepared to stop field fires this year, but with records showing that over 50 farm fires were seen in just one day (September 21), the focus falls back on the Majha region
According to the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), Ludhiana, which records field fires through satellite images, 106 fires have been recorded between September 15 and September 21. While the maximum fires (90) were reported from Amritsar where huge area comes under PUSA 1509, 12 were recorded from Tarn Taran and one each in Gurdaspur Patiala and Mohali districts.
Last year during the same period 24 fires were reported in the state while the number was also 24 fires in 2020 during the same period. In the same period last year, Amritsar recorded only 19 fires.
Amritsar reported 50 fires on September 21 this year, 10 on September 20, 15 on September 19, 11 on September 15 and five on September 18.
The area under the 1509 variety is around 40 per cent of the total Basmati area and 5.8 per cent of the total rice area.
“Farmers are setting fields on fire even in front of us while all our machines are parked in the shed and available for everyone in September,” said an owner of CRM machines in Amritsar.
The state government distributed over 90,000 Crop Residue Management (CRM) machines last year, which can manage stubble on more than 90 per cent of the area under rice.
Expressing concern at the spate of fires, a senior officer in the Agriculture department said if we don’t contain the fires in September, it will be very difficult to stop them in October when the harvesting is at its peak.
“You may distribute lakhs of machines but fires can be stopped only when farmers get financial assistance to bear the expense of running these CRM machines in the field,” said Bharti Kisan Union General Secretary Jagmohan Singh, adding that diesel cost to run these machines is quite high.