01/10/2018 10:51 AM IST | Updated 01/10/2018 10:51 AM IST

Air Pollution: Punjab Orders Massive Crackdown Against Stubble Burning

8,000 officers have been appointed to tackle the most cited cause of winter smog.

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has directed the state's agriculture department to tackle the menace of stubble burning.

JALANDHAR, Punjab—The Punjab government has appointed over 8,000 officers to prevent rice farmers from clearing their fields by burning the stubble that remains once paddy is harvested.

Stubble burning is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of the seasonal winter smog that has made the air in north India one of the most polluted in the world. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has directed the state's agriculture department to tackle the menace.

Paddy is grown on 65 lakh acres of land in Punjab. After harvesting paddy, about 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is left in the fields to be managed by farmers before sowing the next Rabi crops. It is estimated that 15 million tonnes of paddy straw are burnt by farmers for early and easy clearance of the fields.

READ: 14,800 People Died Prematurely In Delhi In 2016 Because Of Exposure To Air Pollution, Finds Study

Additional chief secretary (development) Viswajeet Khanna said the officers responsible for monitoring stubble burning would be drawn from the cooperatives, revenue, rural development, panchayats, agriculture, horticulture and soil conservation departments, as well as the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd.

These officers will hold meetings with the farmers, arrange crop residue management machines, distribute educational materials in schools and disseminate information by working with local gurudwaras.

State nodal officer for the anti-stubble burning campaign, KS Pannu, said these 8000 workers would be spread out in villages across the state, and a senior officer would be appointed to coordinate efforts for every 20 villages.

The concerned nodal officers would submit their detailed status reports through the coordinating officers to Sub Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) at the end of the season, and the data would be collated and stored in the offices of the concerned Chief Agriculture Officer for record and reference purpose.

The state government has also embarked on a massive programme to manage paddy straw. As many as 24,315 subsidised agro-machines are being supplied to farmers, cooperative societies and custom-hiring centres to achieve zero burning of paddy straw.

Recently, Singh had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Rs 100 per quintal as compensation only for those farmers who abstain from burning paddy residue under the state government's ambitious programme for management of paddy straw.