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Punjab- High Demand for Subsidized Machines Requested to Curb Stubble Burning, 1.41 Lakh Machines to be Distributed

In a promising move towards sustainable farming, 130 cost-effective balers priced between ₹15-20 lakhs will be provided by the department to aid paddy stubble collection. Over 6,878 farmers have eagerly applied for these machines.

Punjab- High Demand for Subsidized Machines Requested to Curb Stubble Burning, 1.41 Lakh Machines to be Distributed
Punjab- High Demand for Subsidized Machines Requested to Curb Stubble Burning, 1.41 Lakh Machines to be Distributed (Image Credit: Weather Channel)

In a significant move towards sustainable agriculture, the state agriculture department has received a large number of requests for advanced farming machinery. Applications for smart seeders, designed to plant winter wheat without clearing paddy stubble, make up a substantial third of the total applications, summing up to 59,000.

To support the farming community, the department is set to provide 11,970 such smart seeders at subsidized rates, benefiting individual farmers, custom hiring centers (CHC), and panchayat groups. Similarly, the demand for zero-till drill machines, tools for effective stubble management, has garnered 26,915 applications. The state government is generously offering a 50% subsidy to individual farmers and an 80% subsidy to hiring centers and panchayat groups for these machines.

Furthermore, the department is set to distribute 130 balers, each valued between ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh, for efficient paddy stubble collection. This initiative has created immense interest from farmers, with 6,878 applicants to obtain 130 machines.

To boost the effort, the state government is also providing 30 large balers, each priced at ₹1 crore, capable of bundling hay from over 100 acres per day. These machines will be available at a 65% subsidy, with contributions from the industry using the stubble (25%) and hiring centers (10%).

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Punjab, known for its extensive paddy cultivation of over 3 million hectares, yields approximately 19-20 million tonnes of food grains alongside a staggering 22 million tonnes of stubble annually. A significant portion of the stubble (60%) is managed through on-site techniques, utilized as fuel, or incorporated into the soil. However, the remaining 10 million tonnes are burned, contributing to severe air pollution and the formation of smog that blankets northern India each autumn.

Jaswant Singh, director of the agriculture department, emphasized the importance of ex-situ management, involving industrial units and power plants that can use stubble as fuel in boilers. Balers play a crucial role, as they convert stubble into compact bales for easy transportation and utilization.

Apart from the smart seeder, most subsidized machines in the list cater to paddy stubble collection, bundling, and evacuation. Various machines for on-site management, including reverse plows (390), mulchers (391), straw choppers (115), and shrub masters (305), have received a substantial number of applications. However, the straw management machines mandated by the state government for attachment to harvesters have seen limited interest, with only 1,002 applications for 1,006 machines.

This marks the sixth consecutive autumn harvest season since 2018, where subsidized machines are distributed with financial aid from the Centre. Unlike the previous five kharif seasons, where a 100% grant was provided, this time the Centre is contributing 60% of the ₹350 crore sanctioned funds, with the Punjab government covering the remainder (₹140 crore).

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In the past five kharif harvest seasons, 1.17 lakh subsidized machines were supplied to farmers, custom hiring centers, and panchayat groups at a cost of ₹1,370 crore. Despite these efforts, stubble fires persisted, causing significant environmental and health hazards. Last year, there was a reduction in reported fires, dropping from 71,000 in 2021 to 49,000.

According to reports, with the distribution of machines this year, the total number of machines supplied for stubble management will reach 1.41 lakh, with a total expenditure of ₹1,720 crore. This year, authorities are determined to ensure timely delivery, commencing with the onset of the paddy harvest, as the state's agriculture department and procurement agencies gear up to start purchasing paddy from October 1, targeting a procurement of 180 lakh tonnes.

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