With Kharif harvest a month away, government departments have started reaching out to farmers to make them aware of the uses of Crop Residue Management (CRM) machines and why stubble burning is an unhealthy exercise.
Farmers, however, said that they burn their fields as a mark of protest as the government doesn’t give them financial assistance to cover equipment and functioning costs. Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakuanda, questioned, “Je eh policy, ki kisana nu subsidy te machinan de devo inni hi changgi hundi te phir aggan kayon lag rahian hun jad ki saade kol vadhu machinan hun (If this policy of providing machines to farmers on subsidy was so good then why fires are taking place when the state has over 90,000 machines to manage the stubble)? The state and the Centre must come up with a comprehensive “MSP supported diversification policy” along with “financial assistance to cover CRM equipment and machine running costs”. We need a strong MSP-supported diversification policy to reduce area under paddy and that will automatically reduce stubble production. If that is done, we will take responsibility to avoid farm fires.”
He added that this just exposes the faulty policies of the governments. “We have a lot of machines and this is a burden on us. These machines are used just for around 25 days every year and rest of the time it has no use but needs high maintenance. BKU (Dakunda) and other like-minded unions are ready to assure the government in writing that no fire will take place and if it does then farm union leaders can be booked. But we also need assurance that farmers will get the price of their crop as per recommendations of MS Swaminathan report and at least Rs 3000 per acre for managing stubble to all those farmers who own less than 10 acres,” he said.
He added that the government needs to adopt multiple comprehensive approaches to not only solve the problem of stubble burning but to also save the existence of farmers, particularly small and marginal. “If Green revolution could be brought in the state with the Centre’s support in 1960s then why diversification and stubble management revolutions could not be brought in with support from governments,” he asked.
Bathinda-based farm union leader Jagir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan, said, “They teach us that farmers are the first casualty of stubble burning and we know it. We stand close to the fire and it affects our families, our land, our village the most. Our children are breathing poisonous air, our soil is getting deteriorated and we also want to stop this practice. We need handholding and not big talks. They distribute CMR machines on subsidy but those run on diesel, which is nearly Rs 90 per litre now. Small and marginal farmers earn very less as they pay high rentals on land. How can the government expect them to run these machines which require hiring a high-power tractor for around Rs 5,000 per acre.”
While suggesting an alternative for paddy, he said that cotton is best suitable in the Bathinda region. “However, for the past few years, one or other disease affecting the crop. They government should focus on developing good disease-resistant seeds, only then farmers will stop moving to paddy,” he said, adding that if farmers here grow Kharif maize, they don’t even get government decided MSP on that. Satnam Singh Sahni, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Doaba said that if farmers can protest for over a year at Delhi borders, then they will also listen to their union leaders and stop burning paddy stubble. “But we want the government to take responsibility first and come up with a good policy. Providing machines is not enough on the ground and there is also a need to save water,” he said.