It Is Unfair To Blame Farmers As India’s Grain Bowl Continues To Choke

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Just when N95 masks went out of stock on Amazon, that is when I realised that I just might not be able to breathe the air that I want to. While the prices of air purifiers skyrocketed and more players came in to sell their share of air, I realised that the concept of ‘oligopoly’ just might or might not be holistically true.

After the government announced their aim to ban the usage of single-use plastic closer to Dussehra, a month later we’re still fighting the victory of good over evil or vice versa. While the food producers today bear the brunt of all criticism and have been held guilty of polluting the environment, I am not sure if the fight that we’re all fighting for, and the justice that is being meted out, is of the best quality.

The Indian government introduced some measures aimed at curbing the crop fires, offering to pay up to “80% of certain farm equipment, such as a Straw Management System (SMS) that attaches to a harvester and shreds the residue.” An individual farmer would get financial assistance of 50% for the equipment. The scheme was rolled out in April 2018, but machines did not even reach the cooperative societies.

The farmers are not financially well-off, most of them work on fields that are not even owned by them and earn lesser than the daily average national income of a citizen. The lengthy bureaucratic process of availing the subsidy and the time constraint between the crop seasons have been discouraging the farmers from taking up the mechanical way of getting away with the stubble.

Stubble burning is certainly turning out to be a menace for the environment, not just New Delhi but for entire northern India. Continuous burning after every crop season also takes away nutrients from the soil turning it lesser productive which, in turn, means more application of fertilisers would then be required.

Let’s Understand The Farmers’ Point Of View

For representation only.

Moving from one crop to another needs a gap of around 10 days, but with fewer days in hand, most of the farmers are left with no alternative than to burn it. They very well know the consequence but when you cannot move the loose residue or when you cannot spread it on the surface there is no option except burning.

With almost a majority of the farmers owning less than five acres of land, they are in no position to buy the ‘happy seeders and the Straw Management System (SMS) which costs a whopping ₹1,50,000.

It is not like we haven’t faced problems and solved them before–we have had several revolutions, green, white, and the like. It is time for another such revolution, the plan for which needs to be worked out on a yearly basis. Right now, it seems, we are only delving into the problem and its solution, when we see that there exists no light and only smog at the end of this tunnel.

An overnight ban over stubble burning would only cause agitation among the farmers and would further alienate them. India being an agricultural economy, needs to do a better job than this. And, lest we forget, northern India is in state of climate emergency and northern India is the supposedly the grain bowl of India. And mind you, as Indians, we always enjoy our bowls and plates full!

No kidding, let’s breathe!

Image Courtesy: USDA NRCS
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Getty Images
Featured image for representation only.
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