India Struggles To Put Out Crop Waste Fires That Fuel Air Pollution

India Struggles To Put Out Crop Waste Fires That Fuel Air Pollution

  • Farmers can’t buy expensive machines to manage crop waste: Expert
  • We burn the residue as we race against time to plant wheat: Farmer
  • Punjab, Haryana generate more than 27 million tonnes of rice straw a year

Gagsina: India’s efforts to reduce crop-waste burning, a major source of air pollution during the winter, by spending billions of rupees over the past four years have done little to avert a sharp deterioration in air quality. Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana states, part of the farm belt that borders the capital, New Delhi, accounts for 30 per cent to 40 per cent of air pollution in October and November, according to air-quality monitoring agency SAFAR.

Also Read: In Times Of COVID-19, Health Experts Red Flag The Impact Of Worsening Air Pollution

In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration set out to tackle the problem by establishing a fund to help farmers get rid of rice paddy straw, left out in the field by mechanised harvesters, by using machines.

It has taken 22.49 billion rupees ($302 million) and four years but the plan aimed at stopping farmers torching their crop waste has failed to have any measurable impact on air quality, with New Delhi’s again in the “very poor” category this month, as in previous years, SAFAR data showed.

In the Karnal district of Haryana, 117 kilometre (73 miles) north of New Delhi, dozens of farmers from 12 villages told Reuters that the authorities’ failure to iron out glitches in the plan and the prohibitive prices of the equipment had made it difficult for them to either buy or hire it.

“The subsidy plan looks good on paper but the officials have failed to address our practical problems,” said Kishan Lal, a grain grower.

Despite the subsidy, the machines are beyond our reach.

A government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Two government officials, who both declined to be identified, acknowledged that the plan has not put an end to stubble burning and said it would take time.

Under the plan, individual farmers can get a 50% subsidy and farm cooperatives an 80% subsidy to buy the machines for cutting, collecting and hauling away compressed paddy straw.

Other than the subsidy offered by the federal government, since 2018 Punjab state has spent 10.45 billion rupees on crop waste management.

Farmers said the three pieces of machinery needed cost 250,000 rupees to 350,000 rupees, and they also need to buy at least three tractors and two trolleys. A tractor and trolley – not covered under the subsidy programme – cost about 550,000 and 300,000 rupees, respectively.

Also, farmers need to first pay upfront and then claim the subsidy, which take up to 10 months, said farmer Jagdish Singh.

To be eligible for the subsidy, farmers need to buy the machines only from select government-approved shops, which often sell the equipment at a premium, farmers said.

Also Read: IARI Data Shows Spike In Farm Fires Post Monsoon; Situation Better Than Last Year

‘Race Against Time’

Last month, growers from three villages – Raipur Jattan, Shahjahanpur and Gagsina – pooled their money to buy one set of the machines but soon found it was insufficient to handle a combined 9,000 acres of farmland spread across the villages.

“The machines can barely cover 200 to 300 acres in 20 days,” said farmer Rakesh Singh.

Forget about three villages, this machine is not sufficient even for one. We burn the residue as we race against time to plant wheat.

After harvesting rice, farmers have a short window of about 20 days to plant wheat, and late sowing means lower yields.

A sharp rise in rice production and yields in India, the world’s biggest exporter of the grain, has exacerbated the problem of crop waste, with Punjab and Haryana generating more than 27 million tonnes of rice straw a year.

The plan has failed to address the problem because most farmers can’t buy such expensive machines, said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

The two government officials argued that the transition to mechanised crop-waste management would be a slow process. Encouraging power, paper and sugar producers to use the rice straw as fuel could also be a viable solution, they said.

Instead of turning Punjab and Haryana into a junkyard of these machines, the government should pay farmers 200 rupees for every 100 kg of rice straw which can be used as a feed stock for many industries, said agriculture economist Devinder Sharma.

Also Read: Delhi Pollution Off The Charts After Diwali, Itchy Throat, Watery Eyes

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.






Coronavirus has spread to 196 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 25,14,15,878 and 50,72,386 have died; 21,25,42,567 are active cases and 3,38,00,925 have recovered as on November 11, 2021 at 4:15 am.


3,44,01,670 13,091Cases


3,38,00,925 13,878Recovered

4,62,189 340Deaths

In India, there are 3,44,01,670 confirmed cases including 4,62,189 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,38,556 and 3,38,00,925 have recovered as on November 11, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details






66,20,423 1,094

16,044 899

64,63,932 1,976

1,40,447 17


50,34,858 7,540

71,084 560

49,29,153 7,841

34,621 259


29,90,856 328

8,056 72

29,44,669 247

38,131 9

Tamil Nadu

27,11,584 828

10,159 112

26,65,178 931

36,247 9

Andhra Pradesh

20,69,066 348

3,220 13

20,51,440 358

14,406 3

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,236 14

92 7

16,87,240 6

22,904 1

West Bengal

16,00,732 853

7,945 29

15,73,520 809

19,267 15


14,40,230 54

388 39

14,14,751 15



10,44,428 387

2,716 66

10,33,344 317

8,368 4


10,06,245 25

223 10

9,92,435 34

13,587 1


9,54,471 2

44 1

9,45,473 3



8,26,826 42

215 6

8,16,521 36


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,924 5

81 7

7,82,319 12



7,71,368 13

118 2

7,61,200 11



7,26,144 6

37 3

7,16,446 3



6,72,987 164

3,746 8

6,65,272 171

3,969 1


6,13,061 263

3,279 22

6,03,747 284

6,035 1


6,02,647 31

242 13

5,85,838 17

16,567 1


3,48,948 15

150 4

3,43,660 19



3,43,974 8

142 8

3,36,430 16


Jammu And Kashmir

3,33,490 165

1,230 31

3,27,812 131

4,448 3

Himachal Pradesh

2,25,319 154

1,161 78

2,20,368 71

3,790 5


1,78,399 32

294 9

1,74,734 22

3,371 1


1,28,302 39

272 5

1,26,167 33

1,863 1


1,26,917 531

5,939 157

1,20,522 371

456 3


1,24,250 64

724 17

1,21,586 45

1,940 2


84,635 11

134 13

83,685 24



83,942 28

318 1

82,163 28

1,461 1


65,373 2

22 4

64,531 6


Arunachal Pradesh

55,202 5

47 3

54,875 2



32,074 16

124 2

31,550 14



31,960 9

172 8

31,096 14

692 3


21,087 15

129 4

20,749 11


Dadra And Nagar Haveli


0 0





0 0



Andaman And Nicobar Islands


9 0



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