Paddy field burning is a science. Do Punjab farmers know when it’s safe, or unsafe to light the fire?

The farmers in Punjab and Haryana don’t care if people in the adjoining States are suffering the consequences of paddy straw burning! The air carrying smog from Punjab has reached the Delhi and the NCR airspace, and it is causing havoc.

Punjab farmers

Images of stubble burning in lakhs of agricultural fields in Punjab have even been captured by the all-seeing NASA. Its Aqua satellite has sent the flaming images, and it appears as if the entire land of Punjab is on fire! NASA commented on its website – “What is striking about the images is the large number of fires. Smoke from hundreds of fires obscures most of the Punjab region of India.”

There is a ban on stubble burning in Punjab, but it goes up in smoke every year as paddy and wheat fields are ignited by farmers once the harvest season is over. The Government, as well as the law and order machinery, find themselves in a spot. They are hesitant to take action against the erring farmers because they are just too many of them!

Punjab farmers

And how come no one’s questioning the lives an uncontrolled fire could take?

Are the farmers aware of the techniques, the process, and the weather conditions under which a burn takes place? Highly unlikely!

To avoid mishaps, a farmer needs to light the fire in almost perfect condition. If it’s too windy, the fire can escape easily. If there’s no wind, the fire can be unpredictable. If the field is too dry, it may burn out of control, but if the field is too wet, it may not burn at all.

The plants in the field have to be at the right stage of growth or the fire won’t do them any good. Wind direction can make the burn easier or harder, and temperature and soil moisture also play a role. There may only be a few hours out of the whole year when conditions are right for a burn.

Punjab farmers

You can’t control fire. You can only contain it. Fires that escape its boundary are like a beast on fire! It will kill all in its path, destroy assets. Farmers need to be trained in the art of burn, it at all they want to continue doing the same…

The smog is deciding our daily routine now. Health advisories have been issued in Delhi and the NCR region. Children and elderly people have been asked not to stay outdoors for too long. Kids can’t play outside because there is a deadly haze that has enveloped the capital city. Punjab Agricultural University Vice-Chancellor BS Dhillon says, like many others from his fraternity, that stubble burning is causing multiple problems – soil health, human health, besides causing environmental pollution.

Punjab farmers

“Hazy weather is being witnessed recently which could have been due to the pollution levels caused post-Diwali and smoke generated from burning of stubble. It not only affects the soil fertility, resulting from loss of essential nutrients, but also causes serious threat to human health, including breathing problems, allergies and asthma attacks.”

The problem is especially acute in parts of Punjab, including Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Patiala, Sangrur and Ludhiana, while in Haryana, Karnal district is the most afflicted.

Training workshops and awareness programmes for the farmers are conducted in both the States, where peasants are made aware of the harmful effects of burning the stubble, but they don’t really pay much heed to it. One of the solutions can be setting up of more biomass plants as they will buy the stubble for power generation and the farmers, in turn, will get paid for it.

Punjab farmers

It’s a win-win situation, my dear Punjab and Haryana farmers. Also, it will allow people around these two States, from Delhi and the other regions, to breathe easy…

About the author


Whether it’s women issues, politics or the paranormal, Rubi has an opinion on everything. Art and entertainment interest her, too. Hindu College alumni, she has written for The Hindustan Times and The Financial Express. Every now and then, she loves picking up her camera to capture life and its various shades.

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