This step comes after several village-level protests demanding better management of crop residue went unheard
Hundreds of farmers in several villages of Haryana are restless and tense because the state government, they say, is not lending them an ear over the issue of crop burning and paddy straw disposal. As the Rabi season approaches, farmers are worried about sowing the new crop and after protesting in several villages, they now plan to organise a state-wide protest.
More than 100-odd farmers had held a sit-in protest for four days in Fatehabad demanding better management of paddy straw, but they decided to give up when the deputy commissioner didn’t address their problems.
Farmers from the Kisan Sangarsh Samiti plan to launch a second phase of sit-in protest on October 30. Krishan Swaroop, president, Kisan Majdoor Ekta Sangh, which will also participate in the protest, says, “We will come up with more strength this time to demand concrete steps for management of straw across the state.”
Haryana’s 1.3 million hectare of land is under paddy cultivation and farmers are unsure about how to handle crop residue as the sowing season falls around October 20. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a farmer leader with Bhartiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit, says farmers are coming out together to protest in areas the government officials are visiting to check crop residue burning.
“In Kurukshetra, villagers spontaneously come out to protest when they hear that government officials like revenue officer/patwari or police are visitng,” says Chaduni. “The villagers also ask the officials to demonstrate how to plough the field when straw is still inside the soil,” he adds.
Villagers under fire
Baljeet Singh, who has a 3-acre farm in Gharaunda village of Panipat district, had to pay a fine of Rs 2,500 on October 4 for a fault that wasn’t his. He paid the fine to evade arrest, but he says, “I didn’t burn my stubble. Somebody else did that. When I came to know about the fire, I sent my son to douse it but the officials had reached the spot by then.”
While unseasonal rainfall is already ensuring a 30 per cent low yield, such monetary fines are further hurting farmers. “The administration should deal with such incidents in a better manner. Otherwise, such an approach could back fire at the state government. Farmers should get an opportunity to defend themselves before they are fined because they are already in distress,” says Rajinder Singh, member, Haryana Vigyan Manch (HVM) that makes farmers aware and educates them to not burn straw.
The HVM had, according to Singh, sent few suggestions to the state government on better management of crop residue, but to no avail. “We didn’t get any response from the state government as they didn’t consult any small farmers before making their plans,” says Singh, also a former agriculture officer.
Not the first fight
After similar protests in 2017, then state agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar and social welfare minister Krishan Kumar Bedi had assured farmers of strong measures to manage straw. “After three rounds of protests Dhankar had assured us of action, but nothing has done,” says Swaroop.
Haryana received Rs 137 crore to buy 5,563 different equipments to provide at subsidised rates to farmers. This amount is also meant to be spent on dissemination of information, training of manpower for machines and demonstration in paddy producing schemes. But the cost of the machines has shot up making them inaccessible for many farmers.
Farmers also claim that corruption plays a major role in this. “A lot of machinery banks have been created in different parts of the state where nepotism and favouritism got more value than other farmers groups,” says Swaroop. “We are collecting proofs on how rules were flouted for political closeness. We will tell the public on October 30,” he adds.
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