At a time when farm fires are again dominating the discourse coming out of Punjab, a small village in Moga district has bucked the trend, effectively putting an end to stubble burning.
For the 3,200-odd residents of Ransih Kalan, though, this is just a small step in a long journey towards making the village environmentally sustainable. The village has, over the years, found ways to reuse sewage water for irrigation, come up with creative solutions for plastic waste management, and even move towards ensuring the most marginalised have access to health insurance.
Last year, the village offered farmers Rs 500 per acre of their land if they refrained from burning stubble. “We also acquired several crop residue management machines for the panchayat and provided them free of cost to farmers with limited resources. Around 100 medium to small farmers benefit from this, and 25% of them own less than 2 acres of land,” said sarpanch Kuldeep Kaur.
Kaur’s son Preetinder Pal ‘Mintu’, who was the village sarpanch before her, said, “Not a single farmer resorted to stubble burning last year. We distributed reward money, reinforcing our commitment to being eco-friendly.”
In 2019, the central government had awarded the village the Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar, given to panchayats for outstanding contribution to socio-economic development. In 2020, the village got the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Panchayat Sashaktikaran Puraskar for being the best at delivering services and public goods, innovative revenue generating schemes, and other markers.
“We don’t wait for government funds. Our village comes together, with contributions from residents and support from a few NRIs, to initiate projects. When the government supplements these efforts with additional funds, it accelerates our projects,” said Kaur.
Paramjeet Singh Bhullar, the village development organiser in the Panchayat department, describes Ransih Kalan as a source of inspiration, with “self-motivated individuals who readily act on innovative ideas”.
Deputy Commissioner of Moga, Kulwant Singh, said they are hoping that this year, too, the village will see zero farm fires.
Some of the village’s other initiatives include:
The village began its journey towards environmental sustainability a decade ago, when it started using treated sewage water to irrigate fields. It has 1,300 acres of farmland, primarily dedicated to wheat and paddy cultivation, with a smaller portion of about 50 acres used for maize and various seasonal vegetables. Almost 100 acres of agricultural land benefit from treated water for irrigation.
Baljinder Singh, a farmer with about five acres of land, said: “I have decreased the use of urea in my field since I started using that water.”
Other steps include residents being given 20-litre cans to collect condensation from air conditioners or excess water from RO systems. In addition, Ransih Kalan maintains two lakes for rainwater harvesting.
Managing plastic waste
The village is set to get a plastic waste management unit worth Rs 16 lakh, likely to be unveiled next month. It will be run by the panchayat and was funded by the Centre under the Swachh Bharat mission.
The unit will help turn plastic waste into items such as water pipes, chairs, stools, and more, which can then become a source of revenue for the village, Mintu said.
Village residents have already made recycling a habit – to encourage recycling, the panchayat used to offer sugar and jaggery for plastic waste. Roughly a quintal of waste a month was then sent to a Ludhiana-based factory for recycling.
And much more
The village has come up with several other initiatives to improve residents’ welfare. These include a health insurance scheme for poor families in which a nominal fee of Re 1 is collected from each family for medical cover of Rs 1 lakh. The initiative launched three years ago has benefited 85 families so far.
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There is also a widow pension scheme that provides Rs 750 per month to beneficiaries from underprivileged families. Currently, 75 women benefit from this.
Last year, the panchayat introduced a tree plantation scheme, distributing 1,000 fruit plants among villagers and providing Rs 100 per month to incentivise their maintenance. These plants, including guava, jamun, and mango trees, grace houses, fields, roads, and various public spaces.
The village is already planning its next initiative – a plan to convert organic solid waste into manure for agricultural use at a large scale.