When Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Gurbachan Singh in his Mann ki Baat radio address Sunday for spreading awareness against crop stubble burning, a major cause of air pollution, the Punjab farmer was busy doing what he was being commended for — explaining the benefits of farming without burning stubble to a farmer in Tarn Taran.
“I first got a call about the Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat from the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra. There were several calls afterwards. I feel all the more motivated now. Those who did not want to listen to me earlier, are now congratulating me and inviting me to guide them,” says Gurbachan, 57.
On October 15, The Indian Express reported on how Gurbachan stopped burning crop stubble almost two decades ago in the 40 acres that he farms with his brother in Burj Deva Singh village. And about how he has since persuaded at least 40 farmers in his village to put crop residue to good use in the fields, making him the poster boy for the anti-stubble burning campaign in the district.
The report also referred to a condition that Gurbachan had laid down before his son’s marriage last year: the father of the bride would stop burning paddy stubble on his fields.
In his Mann ki Baat Sunday, Prime Minister Modi said: “A few days ago, I was reading about a farmer brother Gurbachan Singh from Punjab. The son of this hard working farmer Gurbachan Singh ji was to be married… But then, he suddenly said that he had one condition. And, when a condition is put these days, generally it is thought that the other side is going to make a big demand which will be really difficult for the bride’s family to fulfill. But, you will be surprised to know that Bhai Gurbachan Singh was a simple farmer and what he told the bride’s father and the condition he placed reflects the true strength of our society. Gurbachan Singh ji asked him to promise that they will not burn parali or stubble in their fields.”
Praising the “social strength” behind Gurbachan’s condition, Modi said: “This point made by Gurbachan Singh ji appears quite ordinary but this reveals how tall and strong his personality is and we have seen that there are many families in our society who connect their individual matters with the benefit of the society as a whole. Shriman Gurbachan Singh ji’s family has presented one such example before us.”
Then, referring to a practice followed in another village, Kallar Majra, where “farmers mix the stubble with the sand by ploughing their fields rather than burning the stubble”, the Prime Minister said: “Congratulations to Bhai Gurbachan Singhji! Congratulations to the people of Kallar Majra and of all those places who are making their best efforts to keep the environment clean and pollution free. All of you are carrying forward the Indian tradition of a healthy lifestyle as a true successor. Just as a sea is formed by collection of tiny drops, similarly, a small constructive step plays a vital role in creating a positive environment.”
Says Gurbachan: “Now even those who ignored me will listen to me. That is going to change after today, I hope.”
According to Tarn Taran Deputy Commissioner Pardeep Sabharwal, “A lot of farmers will get motivated by Gurbachan Singh after today.”
Says Tarn Taran Krishi Vigyan Kendra official Balwinder Kumar: “The way the Prime Minister has made the address and mentioned Gurbachan Singh’s story, it will give a big boost to our efforts.”
According to an Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) study, stubble burning directly impacts air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), increasing carbon dioxide levels by 70 per cent and carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide by 7 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively.
This year, Gurbachan says, it is the turn of his daughter to get married. And his gift to his son-in-law? A Happy Seeder, the machine that enables wheat to be planted on the field while simultaneously cutting the standing stubble and spreading it over the sown seeds as mulch cover.
— with ENS Delhi.