Bali Ram, a 39-year-old farmer from Kaimla village in Karnal, around 120 km from Delhi, did not burn the paddy stubble in his fields this year for fear of being penalised. Despite the extra cost, he decided to plough his land with a tractor to get rid of the plant stalks.
However, he conceded that most of the villagers in the area still preferred to burn the crop waste. “Burning the stubble seems to be the most convenient, cheap and pragmatic solution to get rid of it. Most of the farmers prefer to cut their crops using combine harvesters which do not cut crops close to the ground and leave the plant stalk, usually up to two feet high, standing. Unlike, the wheat stalk which is used for making fodder for the cattle, the paddy stalk is of inferior quality and is of practically no use. So, the farmers cut it and set it afire,” said Mr. Ram, who owns eight acres of land.Expensive labour
He added that the non-availability of labour over the past few years had compounded the problem further forcing the farmers to use combine harvesters, which are cheaper and faster. While the combine harvesters cost Rs.1,200-1,300 per acre, the labourers, which cut the crop close to the ground, charge around Rs.10,000 for an acre. Moreover, while the combines take only a few hours, labourers take several days. “Even if the farmers get the stalk cut, it is a futile exercise as it is of no use,” he stressed.
The four districts of Kaithal, Fatehabad, Karnal and Kurukshetra account for almost 80 per cent of the stubble burning in Haryana. Paddy is grown in 11 districts of Haryana, including Karnal, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad, Ambala, Sonipat, Kaithal and Jind.
Though efforts to prevent stubble burning has increased over the past few years because of rising pollution levels in Delhi and its neighbouring areas, Sudip Gahlawat, a farmer from Farmana in Sonipat, said it was impossible for the administration to keep a check on it.
“The farmers usually set it afire at night. Few cases get reported, but most go unnoticed,” he said. He suggested that the best solution would be to find some use for the stalk.
“In the wake of increased vigilance, some people give it to gaushalas [cow shelters]. But the people do not accept it even for free,” asserted Mr. Gahlawat.
Sixty-year-old Om Prakash, a farmer from Nilauthi in Jhajjar, said lack of awareness among farmers was also to blame.Land fertility affected
Mr. Om Prakash, who owns over 10 acres of land, argued that burning the stubble not just caused pollution, but also adversely affected the fertility of the land by destroying the friendly microorganisms.
“It is myth that the field need to be cleared of stubble to prepare the land for the next crop. The stubble decomposes and acts as compost. It can also be put to other uses such as packaging of vegetables and fruits and is in huge demand at mandis ,” he said.
Haryana Agriculture University (Hisar), Registrar, Dr. Mohinder Singh Dhaiya told The Hindu over phone that the equipment such as Rotavator and Happy Seeder were available to tackle the problem of stubble burning, but the farmers were not very enthusiastic about them because of the high costs involved.
Haryana Space Applications Centre, Chief Scientist, Dr. R.S. Hooda saidthat around 300-400 active fire points are noticed via satellites everyday during the peak harvesting period across the State starting in the first week of October.