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Is stubble burning the only solution?

October 21, 2018

Stubble Burning

As the pollution levels in the national capital hit an alarming rate, the government and its cititzens are blaming the farmers of Punjab and Haryana for the situation. The burning of the paddy straw during the harvest season (October-November) enormously adds to air pollution levels in the capital. Stubble burning has now become a yearly phenomenon that turns most parts of north India into a gas chamber putting the health of the citizens at risk.

Very recently, when the NASA images of the large-scale burning of the residue crops in the fields of Punjab and Haryana went viral, the festive mood of the people took a back seat. NASA has been engaged in the task of monitoring the problem of stubble burning since 2013. The space agency has also captured satellite images of the areas of Punjab and Haryana where stubble farming has been rampant. If this is a yearly phenmenon and the governments are aware of it, then why the government is so laid back in taking action against it?

What is stubble burning?

Stubble burning is setting fire to the residue of the crops by the farmers after they have been harvested. The machines that are used in harvesting the crops are not equipped to remove the stubble from the crop plantations. Therefore, they are left with no option but to burn the stubble to prepare the field for the next crop.

How stubble burning has become a major cause of pollution in Delhi-NCR?

When the nation is already dealing with “very poor” pollution levels arising from the vehicles, industries, and garbage burning, stubble burning has made a value-addition. It has become a visible phenomenon in recent years and is continuously drawing immense attention.

The smog-forming particles and poisonous gases arising from the burning of post-harvest stubble in Punjab and Haryana turns Delhi and other regions of the Gangetic plains into a gas chamber. In the months of October and November, the winds change their pattern and blow from northwest carrying the smoke pollutants and dust particles from the farm fires. This impairs the air quality making it more polluted than ever. In a time when people should be enjoying in and out with their loved ones, they either lock themselves indoors or don’t go out without wearing pollution masks.

Who to blame – Farmers or the Government?

“Who is actually to blame?” is definitely a question to ponder on. Is it the farmers who set fire to the crops residue or the government that is too negligient to take any steps in this regard should be held responsible for stubble burning? Both have different set opinions that reprimand each other.

Farmers’ take:

Farmers can be referred to as scapegoats in this situation. It is them who bear the brunt of the people when the consequences of stubble burning takes over the nothern plains. Though it is them who burn the stubble every year which ultimately leads to high levels of pollution in the neighbouring areas, but they do this out of helplessness. Being already burdened by the high cost of inputs and low remunerative prices, the farmers fail to acquire any technology that will assist them to remove stubble from the field without burning it. The cost of the technology required to tackle this problem is very high and out of reach of the farmers. If the government is aware of their situation, then why no steps are being taken by the government to help them resolve this grave problem.

Understanding the gravity of the situation, several technical methods in the form of machinery and equipments have been suggested by various institutions to help farmers in either pulling out the stubble from the ground or ploughing it back into the soil. But due to expensive prices of these methods, it is difficult for the peasants to buy them. Even if they manage to purchase these machines or equipments, it is very unreasonable to purchase such expensive mchines, just to put in use for a few weeks in a year. This kind of a situation makes the life of the farmers more miserable. Is blaming them for the rising pollution levels the only solution, or should we understand their plight and situation behind the move of stubble burning.

Government’s take:

As the NASA images of the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana made the headlines earlier this week, the governments have started with their blame games. The AAP government questioned the Modi government about the 1,100 crore plan that it approved in March this year.

Over a period of time, the central and the state governments have promised to take action against stubble farming and provide financial assistance to the farmers to find some other way to dispose off the crop leftovers. The Central government approved a Rs. 1,151 crore scheme to provide cheap and eco-friendly solution to the farmers to tackle the problem of stubble burning. But the current situation completely contradicts the supposed contributions made by the government. If such contributions were made, the life of the farmers would not have been so miserable.

When the recent images clicked by the NASA showed considerably less number of stubble burning areas in the states of Haryana and Punjab (as compared to last year), the Central government made all the efforts to proclaim the success. The government claimed a reduction of 28 percent in Punjab and 44 percent in Haryana in terms of stubble burning. A target of 70 percent fall in the stubble burning was announced by the government after the smog by the stubble burning transformed the northern areas into a gas chamber. However, the farmers are skeptical about these claims by the government.

Is providing funds the only solution to solve the problem of stubble burning? Defintely no. A proper monitoring on the utilization of the funds provided by the government is necessary. After all, if such funds are provided, then where is the money going? Because the situation has still not improved. And if these funds are just false claims of the government, then it is not just the farmers who should be held responsible for the rising pollution levels in Delhi and NCR. It is undoubtedly a complete failure on the part of central and the state governments in stepping forward and take the responsibility.

The Final Words

With Delhi-NCR already dealing with high pollution levels all through the year due to industrial and vehicular pollution, the stubble burning is making the situation even more worse. Claiming success over less percentage of stubble burning this year, the government is making a fool of itself. The pollution levels are rising at a shocking rate and has already made the national capital as the most polluted city. Where is the solution to this problem, afterall?

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