CHANDIGARH: In a move aimed at curbing pollution caused by stubble burning, the Centre has released Rs 269 crore to the Punjab government to enable it to subsidise the prices of crop residue management equipment.
Punjab generates 17.5 million tonnes of wheat residue and 19.7 million tonnes of paddy residue every year. A Harvard study done by using NASA’s satellite data has found that agricultural fires caused nearly half the pollution in Delhi last October and November, the peak stubble-burning season.
Sources said with the Centre releasing the first instalment of the `665-crore earmarked over two years, around 2,500 primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS), various farmers’ clubs as well as individual farmers will be able to avail subsidies ranging between 50% and 80% while buying equipment for in situ crop residue management.
Farmers are now being motivated to buy the equipment —called the Super Straw Management System or Super SMS — by multi-department committees headed by deputy commissioners. Progressive-minded farmers have been included in these committees. The Super SMS, which will help farmers get rid of wheat and paddy straw from their fields, has eight attachments -- combine harvester, happy seeder, paddy straw chopper, rotary slasher, shrub master, rotavator, hydraulic reversible M.B. plough and zero till seed cum fertiliser drill.
Sources said that under the scheme, the PACS will be given 80 per cent subsidy on the equipment, which means they will have to fund the remaining 20 per cent. In Punjab, there are a total of 3,500 such societies, which have farmers as members.
If eight or more farmers form a farmers’ club, the same 80:20 subsidy formula will apply. However, if an individual farmer wants to buy the equipment for himself, he will be given 50 per cent subsidy. Subsidy amounts will either be reimbursed to individuals or groups or paid directly to equipment vendors.
About 2,500 PACS will be covered in the first phase and as many as 11,300 Super SMSes will be supplied to them. About 4,741 pieces of the equipment will be sent to farmers’ clubs, which will set up custom hiring centres. About 9,510 Super SMSes will be reserved for individual farmers.
So far, the Punjab agriculture department has got around 3,000 applications from individual farmers to buy the equipment, around 90 applications from farmers’ groups and several applications from PACS.
An official said chief agriculture officers of districts were being told that they should facilitate the process of purchase of equipment from approved vendors and availing of subsidy by farmers. A letter to this effect has been issued to all deputy commissioners by the state agriculture department.
Recently, a two-day workshop was held to train district-level officials of the agriculture and cooperation departments on the nitty-gritty of online applications for equipment purchase and disbursal of subsidies, Jasbir Singh Bains, Director, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Punjab, said.
Last year, the state agriculture department had given a subsidy of `45 crore to farmers to buy the equipment. Sources said the feedback was positive.