Facing a tough challenge in its drive to check stubble burning, the Haryana government has approached the Centre for permission to engage MGNREGA workers to lift paddy crop residue from fields. Haryana Agriculture Minister Om Prakash Dhankar told The Indian Express that he has already discussed the issue with Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
“An MLA in the state Assembly on Monday gave this suggestion. It’s a good solution as there will be no shortage of funds under the MGNREGA. The labour under the MGNREGA funds should be allowed to lift the paddy straw for a month during the harvesting season of paddy. We will send a formal request to the Centre which can take a final call on it,” said Dhankar.
According to Dhankar, solution of paddy straw burning requires huge man power as paddy was cultivated in 33 lakh acres of land in the state which has generated 70 lakh tonnes of crop residue. To tackle the problem with short term and long term measures, the state has submitted a five year plan of Rs 1601.57 crore to the Centre, but it released just Rs 45 crore for providing straw management machines to the farmers on subsidy. Haryana has also contributed its share of Rs 30 crore.
Three days after a farmer Prem Chand, 75, died in a fire caused by burning of paddy stubble in Ambala district of Haryana, the issue of paddy straw dominated Haryana Assembly on Monday.
Through a calling attention motion, the main opposition party, the Indian National Lok Dal, urged the government not to lodge FIRs against the farmers but arrange machines for them to process crop residue.
“The farmers were compelled to burn their left over straw as the state government has not provided any solution to the farmers for this problem. This problem is too grave as the farmers could not make use of such a huge amount of residue and could not store the same as well. If the same is lifted manually, it requires labour charges of Rs 10,000 per acre which a farmer cannot afford,” said Abhay Chautala.
“The government says that it offers subsidy on the machines. But subsidy of just Rs 50,000 on a machine of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 10 lakh won’t offer any relief to the farmers,” he added.
“Sarpanches are being threatened with suspension, if they fail to control the stubble burning. If this is the way, then the Chief Minister should also be suspended for burning the state thrice,” said Chautala in the Assembly indicating violence during Jat quota stir, Dera Sacha Sauda case and the incident involving self-styled godman Rampal.
INLD MLA and former state Agriculture Minister Jaswinder Singh Sandhu said that the government must find a solution so that their agriculture land may be saved from becoming barren.
Another INLD MLA, Balwan Singh Daulatpuria, said that thousands farmers on Monday staged a protest in Fatehabad to seek a viable solution of the problem.