Chandigarh, September 10:

In order to adopt zero tolerance towards stubble burning during the upcoming paddy harvesting season, the Chief Secretary, Ms. Vini Mahajan, has ordered the deployment of the special task force in ten red category districts, each of these had witnessed over 4,000 stubble burning incidents during the previous paddy season, for strict enforcement and regulatory measures, besides appointment of nodal officers at village, cluster, tehsil, and district levels to keep air pollution under check for containing the spread of respiratory diseases in view of COVID pandemic in the agrarian state.

Chairing a high-level meeting to review the preparedness and steps taken to curb stubble burning, here, the Chief Secretary asked the Animal Husbandry department to explore the modalities for using paddy straw as fodder for animals kept in gaushalas. She also directed all the Deputy Commissioners to make elaborate arrangements for the storage of paddy straw.

A mobile app for both android and IOS platforms has been developed from Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), which will be made operational by September 15, to provide role-based login (village, cluster, sub-division, and district levels) to various officials for end-to-end reporting and action taken for each fire incident this season.

“Training is being imparted to all the field functionaries at the PRSC in Ludhiana, which is following standardized protocol adopted by the ISRO for reporting of farm fires and for harmonized dissemination of information,” she informed.

A WhatsApp call center will also be made operational by the PPCB by September 15 for receiving complaints and information on stubble-burning incidents.

The Deputy Commissioners of the red category districts- Sangrur, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Moga, Muktsar, Patiala, Mansa, Tarn Taran, Barnala, and Ludhiana – have been asked to deploy a special task force for enforcement and regulatory measures.

The Chief Secretary was apprised that 8,000 village-level nodal officers were being appointed for the current paddy season.

Reviewing the steps being taken to tackle the crop residue burning, Ms. Mahajan was informed that 11 biomass power projects of 97.5-MW capacity have already been commissioned, which will consume 8.8 lakh MT paddy straw per annum. Besides, two biomass power projects of 14-MW were under execution in Jalandhar and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, which will use 1.2 lakh MT paddy straw per annum.

Also, as many as 23 CBG projects of 262.58 TPD CBG were under execution at various places in the state, which will consume 8.774 lakh MT paddy straw every year. A bio-ethanol project (100-kilo liters per day production of food-grade ethanol based on biofuel) was being set up by HPCL at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda. The project was likely to be commissioned by February 2023, which will consume almost 2 lakh MT paddy straw per year.

Additional Chief Secretary Development Anirudh Tewari apprised the Chief Secretary that advanced machinery under ‘promotion of agricultural mechanization for in-situ management of crop residue’ and ‘submission on agricultural mechanization (SMAM)’ has been sanctioned and so far a total of 76,626 CRM machines were available in the state, including 27,430 with individual farmers, 11,874 with PACS and 37,322 in other CHCs, while it makes a total of 19,836 custom hiring centers with CRM machinery that have been established in the state for around 12,000 villages. It was also informed that these machines for individuals were available with up to 50 percent subsidy, while the CHCs, PACS, village panchayats, and FPOs can avail them at up to 80 percent subsidy.

He further informed that super seeder, happy seeder, super SMS, hydraulic reversible MB plow machines with high priority machinery and straw chopper, shredder, mulcher, zero-till seed-cum-fertiliser drill, crop reaper with low priority in-situ machines, and baler and rake in ex-situ machines have been made available for the ease of the farmers to shun the practices of stubble burning.

Regarding the action plan for subsidized CRM machinery this year, the Chief Secretary was informed that an action plan of Rs 888 crore for providing 70,000 additional machines was submitted to the Union Government in April 2021, after which an amount of Rs 235 crore with Rs 43.83 crore re-validated fund was released to the state government, of which Rs 214.55 crore has been utilized till date.

The ACS Development said the online registration and empanelment of manufacturers for the year 2021-22 was being provided and so far 307 manufactures have been listed with the state and 156 impaneled on the portal so far.

Additional Chief Secretaries Vijay Kumar Janjua (Animal Husbandry), Anurag Agarwal (Power, New and Renewable Energy Sources), Seema Jain (Rural Development and Panchayats), and Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce Hassan Lal, also attended the meeting.