It’s stubble-burning season in Punjab, and with all eyes on the state in light of the deteriorating air quality in several parts of North India, including Delhi, its officers are going all out to douse the flames.
Like Lehragaga Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Suba Singh. On November 7, Suba Singh was photographed standing atop a fire engine, using high-pressure water pipes to help douse the flames in the fields at Raidharana village in Punjab’s Sangrur district. Suba Singh had visited the village along with Lehragaga Station House Officer Ranbir Singh, who later appealed to farmers to refrain from burning stubble.
Like their Lehragaga counterparts, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Surinder Singh and SDM Harbans Singh also entered burning fields in Begowal village in Malerkotla on Monday. Dressed in formals, without masks, the officers held a bundle of dry straw in their hands to douse the flames in the paddy fields. “They were doing it in an area with less fire. The fire brigade team was inside the fields…their effort was a larger message to people to stop burning fields,” a member of the district administration team said. Malerkotla Deputy Commissioner Dr Pallavi was also present.
Similarly, Khanna SDM Baljinder Singh Dhillon visited Daheru village on Monday along with a fire-fighting team. “In Khanna, only seven such incidents have taken place but I am reaching out to the villagers. Here, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and HDFC are helping a lot in providing resources for crop residue management,” Dhillon said.
Farmers fight back
Even as officials across the state have been visiting villages and interacting with farmers – Mansa ADC Ravinder Singh visited Bhainibagha village on Monday; Mansa Chief Agriculture Officer Dilbagh Singh doused flames in Dalel Singh Wala village on Tuesday; Barnala ADC Satwant Singh visited Chhapa village along with firefighters on Tuesday; Barnala SDM Gopal Singh was in Manna Pindi village on Wednesday – in some villages, they have encountered resistance.
In Bathinda’s Mehma Sarja village, for example, Sub-Divisional Engineer Harpreet Sagar was held hostage by the farmers and was forced to burn the stubble last week, an incident that drew widespread condemnation.
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“Farmers have been resisting at various locations but officers are still on the job,” Hasan Singh, chief agriculture officer, Bathinda, told The Indian Express.
“The flames are being doused but how to manage this stubble is still a question mark. Farmers are getting late for wheat sowing,” a farmer told The Indian Express.
“The officers are showing up to make claims about their efforts. They are getting themselves clicked and videotaped. It is good that they are concerned. But at the same time, they should give concrete solutions on shifting to other crops,” Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Dakaunda, told The Indian Express. “Farmers are also concerned about the environment. We know that rice is not even our staple food but give us MSP [minimum support price] on crops other than paddy, and we will happily diversify,” he added.