Sat Singh | Oct 11, 2018 | 5 min read
How Haryana is better prepared to tackle stubble-burning
Rohtak: When it comes to curbing the menace of stubble-burning in Delhi’s neighbouring states, Haryana seems better prepared than Punjab.
With only a week left for the peak paddy harvest season in Haryana, NGOs and villagers in some state districts have taken novel steps to dispose of the paddy straw residue in an eco-friendly way, rather than just burn it – as is the practice in many other districts and even across Punjab.
In Maina and Pahrawar villages by the national highway, farmers claim they have done away with stubble-burning in the last two years.
“A group of panchayat members remain vigilant and have made farmers aware of the toxic hazards of the practice. They also provide them alternatives at their doorstep,” says Vikram Panghal, who is also a social activist.
What the village does is arrange for tractor-trollies and labourers to collect paddy stubble from the fields and sell it to local gaushalas, where the straw is chopped and used as cattle feed.
In Sirsa district, the paddy residue is an opportunity to mint money.
When the paddy season is round the corner, 45-year-old Amrik Singh, a labourer from Sirsa’s Chakraiyan village, gets himself ready for brisk business.
He first collects the paddy straw and assembles it at one place. “The farmers are happy to get the stubble cleared in lieu of money and we get paddy stalk to make ropes!” he explains. The earning, on an average, is between Rs 30,000 and 50,000 per acre from the crop residue.
Singh adds that the straw must be dry for them to make ropes, which are later sold to farmers and used to tie bales of wheat round the season.
Hari Ram, another farmer, says rope-making is a craft that he learnt from his father, who himself mastered it from his parents. “We are landless labourers who get to work in fields by chopping up the crop, and later we pick up the stubble for animal feed and for making ropes to sell,” he adds.
In the past, the paddy farmers used to give away stubble stalk for free but now charge some money for it, after seeing how it is used to make profit.
NGO pitches in
NABARD, in collaboration with JBNR Trust, tested a successful farmer training pilot project last year in Barna cluster of the state’s Kurukshetra district. They have now extended their programme to nine other Haryana districts - Sonipat, Panipat, Yamuna Nagar, Ambala, Karnal, Kaithal, Sirsa, Jind and Fatehabad.
As part of that, Vikram Ahuja, who heads the operations, said farming equipment such as Happy Seeders, mulchers, reversible ploughs, rakes and balers was made available at the village-level to give farmers ready options to move their paddy stubble.
“It was a pilot study in which an intensive training, demonstration and implementation programme was made available to the farmers through the months of September to December 2017,” Ahuja says.
“They could either choose to make bales from paddy straw. Or they could opt for in-situ sowing of wheat in the standing paddy stubble. It resulted in zero straw burning in Barna cluster,” he explains.
Sharing his experience, he said that at several places, the farmers had initially refused to take an oath at the end of the session that they would not burn their paddy stubble. The response initially shocked the team as the farmers were arguing that they did not have the required machines to continue with proper clearance of fields.
Some of it will still burn
The lack of cheap machines remains an obstacle for many farmers in Haryana.
Though the state government has frequently claimed to have taken sufficient measures to counter the stubble-burning, many paddy-growers at the grassroots have a different tale to tell.
Ramesh Kumar Sharma, 44, a farmer from Naagar village near Gohana of Sonipat district, 50 km away from New Delhi, insists he would once again be forced to set his paddy residue on fire.
According to him, he had sown paddy on 18 acres of land and three of them were flattened a fortnight ago when rain lashed Haryana. He is now left with only 15 acres of standing crop.
“Just after the harvest of paddy, sowing season for wheat starts and labourers need the fields empty. Burning is the only option left to get rid of the paddy stubble swiftly,” he says, adding that not just him but all his counterparts plan to replicate the same in the absence of support from the government.
Bijender Kumar, who works as a labourer in paddy fields, revealed that farmers pay him and others like him to chop and dump all the paddy straw at one place to set it on fire.
He says that while they all are aware that stubble-burning is harmful for the environment, it will cost the farmer another Rs 2,000 to get the residue removed from the field, loaded and carted off to the market.
Manjeet Singh, from a village on the Rohtak-Rewari national highway, blamed the lack of farming machines that would have made the removal of residue easier and eco-friendly.
Alleging favouritism on the part of the agriculture department, Singh, who has paddy fields on 13 acres, said he had approached officials to avail of the subsidised machines, but was turned away.
“We were told to form groups and come in order to get the machines, while individual subsidies were given to the handpicked farmers,” he alleges.
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Photo caption: Labourers in Sirsa district making ropes of paddy stalk
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