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Punjab govt appoints 8,000 nodal officers, to give more agri-machines to check stubble burning

Chandigarh,  As many as 23,500 more machines are being given to farmers for paddy straw management and 8,000 nodal officers have been appointed in paddy growing villages of Punjab to check stubble burning.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to farmers not to burn crop residue, as it could aggravate COVID-19 conditions apart from leading to pollution.

Seeking the support and cooperation of farmers in preventing stubble burning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the chief minister said experts had warned it could have serious implications for people already suffering from lung and other diseases.

Every year, Punjab and Haryana are blamed for rising air pollution and smog due to stubble burning by farmers.

Singh, in a statement here on Sunday, said he has been repeatedly following up with the prime minister for compensation to farmers for defraying the cost on management of paddy straw. The state is also taking various steps to educate farmers about the problem, he said.

The Punjab government has been seeking from the Centre Rs 100 per quintal as compensation to enable farmers to manage paddy straw without burning it.

The nodal officers, who will be in villages till November 15, will work in close coordination with the revenue, rural development and panchayats and agriculture departments.

These officers will also prepare lists of owners who have given their land on rent and then call each land owner on phone with the warning that a ”red entry” will be made in their land record if they are found burning crop residue.

The nodal officers will create awareness in villages through demonstration of machines used in straw management, distribution of pamphlets or leaflets and announcements from gurudwaras or by other modes, among others, an official statement said.

The agriculture department has also deputed a dedicated team at a call centre for quick resolution of queries. People can call on the tollfree number 1800-180-1551.

The chief minister said as part of the state”s stubble management strategy, 23,500 more agri-machines are being provided this year to farmers, either individually or in groups or through cooperative societies at a subsidy ranging from 50 per cent to 80 per cent.

“This is in addition to 51,000 paddy straw in-situ management machines provided over the past two years,” he said.

Further, various sites have been identified or earmarked in districts for collection of crop residues.

This residue can be transported to places where it can be used as cattle fodder, said Singh, adding that the district administration had been directed to facilitate logistics for transportation of straw from these sites.

The Punjab government has, in fact, approached the chief secretaries of the adjoining states for procurement of this paddy straw and queries have been received so far from the Uttarakhand, he said.

Paddy has been grown over 27 lakh hectares of land in Punjab this year.

“This includes cultivation of Basmati on 7 lakh hectares. Cumulatively, this is expected to yield paddy residue of 16.50 million tonne,” the statement said. PTI