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Explained: Why Punjab farmers continued to burn despite govt’s incentive promise

What has been the pattern of paddy stubble fires in Punjab after Supreme Court directed it and two other states to compensate farmers who manged the crop residue without burning it?

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Updated: November 24, 2019 10:50:28 am
Explained: Why Punjab farms continued to burn despite govt’s incentive promise After the Supreme court order on November 6, Punjab Police booked about 2,000 farmers for setting paddy stubble on fire. (File photo)

The Supreme Court on November 6 had directed Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Prdaesh to give cash incentive to paddy farmers who had not burnt stubble on their fields.

What has been the pattern of paddy stubble fires in Punjab after Supreme Court directed it and two other states to compensate farmers who manged the crop residue without burning it?

After the Supreme court order on November 6, Punjab Police booked about 2,000 farmers for setting paddy stubble on fire. However, the number of the farm fires went down subsequently and a rise in numbers were reported only after a scam was detected in the compensation being paid by the government. The government then ordered re-verification of over 29,000 beneficiaries of the cash incentive.

How does the number of fires compare after the scam was reported?

On November 17, only 25 fires were reported from across the state. On November 18, the day government ordered the re-verification, 521 fires were reported. It shot up to 1289 Tuesday, before coming marginally down to 1036 Wednesday.

Explained: Red herring? Reports by DCs say nearly half farm fires not due to stubble burning

Why did the farmers continue to set stubble on fire?

The government ordered a compensation of Rs 2500 per acre to small and marginal farmers having land holding upto 5 acre. As per PM-KISAN scheme data, the number of such farmers is about 6 lakh. There are total 14 lakh farmers in the state. As per the agriculture department, it were mostly the big farmers, who were not eligible for the compensation, who set their farms on fire.

What happened after the scam was reported?

According to Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) leader Sukhdev Singh Kokri, the farmers lost trust in the government. “Only those farmers got compensation who had a political connection and then the government ordered a re-verification. The process to apply for compensation was also made more tedious after the scam. Who would have waited? We have to prepare our fields for the next crop.”

Are the farmers not scared of police action?

According to Kokri, “It is better to go to jail than to delay the cultivation of next crop”. Those who set the paddy stubble on fire had no other option as ant more delay would’ve affected the next crop cycle.

What next?

The farm unions active in Punjab are organising state-wide protests on November 25. They have given a call to the farmers to hit the streets in support of those who have been booked (for farm fires). They will demand cancellation of the FIRs against the farmers.

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