OCT 10TH 2018, Chandigarh
The Stubble Burning Conundrum: A dialogue between farmers, policy makers and scientists was organised in Chandigarh by a Delhi based communications group Climate Trends. The event commenced with a keynote address delivered by the Chief principal secretary of the state Shri. Suresh Kumar and presentations by the farmers from Punjab on managing the crop residue.
The event was represented by farmer union head Balbir Singh Rajewal; Agriculture policy expert Devinder Sharma; Balvindar Sidhu, Commissioner of Agriculture department; Mr Gulshan Rai from the Punjab state pollution control board ; Dr. Ravindar Khaiwal from PGI, Chandigarh.
Addressing the gathering of farmers and experts along with the media, the state’s Chief principal secretary Shri. Suresh Kumar said “Punjab’s farmers are the worst hit despite, and due to the policies and schemes of the green revolution. Penalising and arresting farmers without addressing their concerns at the ground level is not something a democratically elected government should be encouraging. There is a need for a variety of viable choices to be made available to the farmer.
Some of the schemes that the govt has initiated include insitu management, which is part of the solution. In the long term, incentivising crop residue, and encouraging diversity in cropping patterns by encouraging growth of alternate crops like maize, will be a solution to this “ having said this he also expressed his discontent with the lack of transformation change on the ground and the need for more research and innovation to understand the extent of the problem on the ground. Punjab’s farmers have provided food for the country at an hour of need and it is time the country took note of it and pays a price for their wellbeing he added.
Stubble burning is one of the key sources responsible for the severe air pollution levels in Delhi and its neighbouring states during winters. In the last few days since the onset of the crop residue burning, the air quality in Delhi and regions across the Indo Gangetic Plain has moved to the poor and very poor category.
Taking into account the concerns expressed by those in Delhi and in the ministry on air pollution, Devinder Sharma, Agriculture Trade and Policy expert based in Punjab said “Pollution this year is likely to be less than what it is last winter as Diwali is not falling during the burning season, however the debate in the country on stubble burning needs to shift from the rising levels to addressing the real reasons behind the burning and the reason behind why the farmer is committing suicide, until this aspect is addressed, the issue will continue to grab headlines”.
Bharathiya Kisan Union’s Chief Balbir Singh Rajewal said that farmers are becoming soft targets and are being bullied to shift away from their traditional ways of crop management, he opined that the subsidies being offered – 50 percent for individual farmers and 80 percent for cooperative societies for the machinery is no longer supporting the farmer as the prices of the machines have gone up, interventions for a forceful shift to introduce crop diversity and stubble management have failed so far.
A public health expert working on air pollution Dr.Ravindra Khaiwal from PGI Chandighar had the final word where solutions have been identified but the need to replicate them at the village level is what’s missing, when an event of pollution occurs it is to be noted that it affects the farmers and their families first, including their cattle and they are the victims of their own actions and they need to be supported fully to reduce the impacts of pollution on environment and health.
However, Gulshan Rai, chief engineer, Punjab Pollution Control Board, appealing to the farmers and the citizens not to burn the straw has concluded that while the role of the pollution control board is to enforce the measures and the law, they have been trying to bring awareness within the farming communities and have been working to minimise the process of penalising them. He has stated that all the industries in Punjab are running within the set limits and strict monitoring is in place to keep a check on waste burning, controlling road dust and other sources responsible for pollution.
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