Against the target of providing 32,100 subsidised machines for in-situ (mixing in the soil) and ex-situ (evacuating from the farms) management of paddy stubble during the kharif harvest in October and November, the Punjab agriculture department supplied a total of 22,593 machines to the farmers, officials said on Saturday.
They said only these many machines were supplied as not many farmers came forward. The handing over of machines and disbursal of subsidy involves a proper verification system, which takes time and a procedure had to be followed, the officials mentioned above added.
The number of machines supplied during this kharif season was more than the previous one as in 2021, only 13,796 machines were given to farmers.
The subsidised machines provided to the farmers this year to check farm fires included super-straw management system, smart seeder, happy seeder, super seeder, paddy-straw chopper, reversible plough, zero till drill, baler, rake and shrub master, spatial seed drill, crop reaper, and self-propelled reaper-cum-binders.
Over 19,000 machines have so far been verified and ₹196.5 crore disbursed to the farmers as subsidy, the officials said.
“In the previous season, ₹4 crore was given to the farmers as subsidy, while the figure neared ₹200 crore this time. The entire subsidy amount would be given to the farmers after verification of all machines supplied to them,” said an officer of the agriculture department.
“Out of at least 70,000 farmers who had applied for 1.1 lakh machines, only one-fourth came forward to avail the subsidised facility,” added the officer, who did not wish to be named.
Before the current kharif harvest, 90,422 machines were supplied to the farmers on a subsidy amount of ₹1,145 crore. “We took all precautions as 14% (1,100) machines supplied to the farmers between 2018 and 2021 were found missing in the physical verification conducted in August,” said another senior officer of the department.
The verification was initiated after Centre’s enforcement directorate intervened.
The machines are funded by the Centre and this year, ₹240 crore was received as the grant for the in-situ paddy stubble management.
Despite the fact that the machines were supplied to check farm fires, 49,899 such incidents were registered in the current season, a dip of one-third from last year’s count of 71,304 and a significant fall from what was reported in 2020 (79,903).
There were 50,738 stubble burning cases in 2019 and 59,695 in 2018.
The incidents of stubble burning could not be controlled with machines as only affluent farmers are able afford costly machines, while small and marginal ones who own up to five acres of land can’t spend much.