After the Supreme Court’s rebuke on burning stubble, inspectors in Punjab are getting their act together in curbing such cases. On Tuesday, district collector Pradeep Aggarwal and police commissioner Rakesh Aggarwal led their forces to crop fields to investigate the cases of stubble-burning following 45 cases registered against farmers by other residents of villages. As many as 22 farmers have been arrested.
The Punjab Pollution Control Board issued 13 challans (Indian English for official demands for penalty made by the police). Challans worth Rs 2 lakh have been issued for not using the straw management system (SMS) machine to dispose of the stubble.
In Haryana, a bailer (turns stubble into bales that can be sold in the market), a mulcher (turns the straw into mulch or manure) or a happy seeder (plants the next crop in the gaps between heaps of the remains) can be used to avoid burning the stubble. These machines are subsidised by both the state governments.
The district collector of Ludhiana said that 77 clusters had been prepared in his area to monitor the cases of burning of crop stubble. A big force of police and district administration officers have been deployed for the job.
Wherever a case comes up, instructions have been issued to immediately file a case against the farmer. The sarpanch of the village has been asked to keep a close watch on those who burn the stubble, as the Supreme Court has said in its instructions to hold the sarpanch responsible for the act.
Aggarwal said that a helpline number 0161-2404502 had been issued for complaints against those who burnt the stubble. This number works around the clock. Any person can file a complaint related to the burning of crop residue by dialling this number. If a farmer is facing a problem in managing the stubble, he can contact district agriculture officer Baldev Singh on mobile number 9888674820.
Stubble burning refers to the act of intentionally setting fire to the straw that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested. While governments had made laws and rules to restrict stubble-burning in the 1990s, law-enforcement has left a lot to be desired since then. The burning, contrasted with alternatives such as ploughing the crop remains back into the ground or collecting it for industrial uses, has a number of consequences and effects on the environment:
- Loss of nutrients in the soil
- Pollution from smoke
- Damage to electrical and electronic equipment from floating threads of conducting waste
- Risk of the fire spreading out of control