Collective Action is Need of the Hour To Address the Issue of Stubble Burning


In the winter session of Parliament, AAP Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Dr Sandeep Pathak raised the issue of stubble burning and appealed to the Central government to cooperate with the state to curb the issue. Stubble burning is practiced by farmers to clear fields after paddy harvesting. This is practiced especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh to clear the fields for the next crop after the harvesting of rice in October.

In the Parliament Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ welfare Arjun Munda stated that this year there were 6,391 incidents of stubble-burning as compared to 13,964 in 2022 in the period between September 15 and October 29 which indicates a drop of 54.2%. He added that this data is based on the monitoring of farm fire incidents using satellite-based remote sensing.

Every year stubble burning becomes an issue of contention between the state governments and Central Government as it results in the formation of toxic smog over several parts of North India. With the release of smoke and carbon dioxide, stubble burning aggravates the problem of air pollution in Northern India, especially in the national capital in October and November. Many steps have been taken till now by the governments and administration but a concrete and efficient solution still appears to be far away. Why is this so?

The stubble burning or Parali as it is called in the local language appears to be an easy way out for farmers to clear the crop residue because it is the cheapest method to do so. Also use of labor for stubble extraction can be expensive as the farm sizes are large, especially in Punjab and Haryana. In addition to this, multiple cropping and short window between harvesting and sowing of the next crop compel farmers to take this path.

The Central government has taken several steps to curb stubble burning. The Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining areas has taken steps such as In-Situ and Ex-Situ crop residue management, effective monitoring, and implementation of standard protocols to record farm-fire instances, etc. Other than this, the state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh have also framed policies to resolve this issue. One prominent solution to this was provided by The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) which developed the Pusa bio-decomposer that enhances the breaking of paddy straw and thereby enables quicker decomposition. Other than this there are also Crop residue machines that help in efficient decomposition of crop residue.

So what can be done now? The major issue that needs to be addressed is crop diversification. The farmers prefer to grow paddy because of the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Alternative crops should also be given MSP to encourage farmers to grow crops other than Paddy and Wheat. In addition to this techniques of Crop residue management should be given due attention. As said by the Supreme Court from time to time, financial assistance should be provided by both state and central governments to encourage the use of crop residue machines and bio-decomposers. Further, research and development should be promoted to find alternatives to stubble-burning practices. Also, farmers should be made aware and provided training to use mechanical equipment and alternative methods. Only by collective and comprehensive measures, the menace of Stubble burning can be tackled.

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