Not advisable to present Rs 100 per quintal incentive to farmers for not burning stubble: EPCA

New Delhi, September 30

A Supreme Court-mandated pollution control authority has said it “may not be a viable option” to provide an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal of paddy produced to farmers for not burning stubble.

If at all necessary, any such incentive should be provided by state governments from their own budget, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority told the apex court in a report submitted on Wednesday.

Following the Supreme Court guideline to incentivise farmers to stop stubble burning, the governments of Punjab and Haryana last year announced a bonus of Rs 2,500 an acre for small and marginal farmers.

Farmers say the incentive can help them cover the cost of fuel used in operating machinery for in-situ management of stubble.

Last year, the Punjab government provided incentives amounting to Rs 28.51 crore to 31,231 farmers. The state has sought funds from the Centre this year, saying it won’t be able to pay on its own.

The Haryana government provided incentives amounting to Rs 1.63 crore to 3,930 farmers last year. This year, it plans to disburse bonuses worth Rs 301 crore.

          The EPCA report said, “After deliberations, it was found that inclusion of cost of stubble removal in MSP (minimum support price) may not be a viable option.”   “It has been agreed that any such incentive, if at all necessary, should be provided by the state government from their own budget,” it said.

EPCA member Sunita Narain said, “Incentive should not be given to stop people from doing something bad.”

“We believe the farmers can be incentivised in different ways – by giving free machinery or buying stubble from them. An incentive for not burning stubble is a perverse incentive. This has been our view for the last three years,” she said.

Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh attract attention during the paddy harvesting season between October 15 and November 15.

Farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue left behind after harvesting and before cultivating wheat and potato. It is one of the main reasons for the alarming spike in pollution in Delhi-NCR. 

Last year, Punjab produced around 20 million tonnes paddy residue. Farmers burnt 9.8 million tonnes of it.

Farmers in Haryana burnt 1.23 million tonnes out of the 7 million tonnes of paddy residue produced.

Despite a ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, farmers continue to defy it as there is a short window between harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.

The high cost of manual or mechanical management of straw is a major reason why farmers choose to burn it.

State governments are providing 50 to 80 per cent subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment for in-situ management of paddy straw, installing paddy straw-based power plants and running a massive awareness campaign against stubble burning.

But these measures are yet to make any significant impact on the ground. — PTI

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