The Punjab farmer Gurbachan, leading the crusade against stubble burning
The gravity of the Delhi fog situation from 2017 is still fresh in our minds. The air was unfit to breathe and causing respiratory problems.
Well, levels of particulate matter (PM) are spiking again, bringing back the spotlight on air pollution in the national capital.
Crop stubble burning, among other things, has been blamed for the dipping air quality, not only in Delhi but as far as the Booh Havelian village, in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district.
A lone farmer in the state has been fighting the battle against crop burning.
Tarn Taran’s Gurbachan Singh has been taking a proactive approach, trying to instill awareness among his fellow farmers about the gravity and after-effects of stubble burning.
It was during his son’s wedding that he started implementing this practice. The ever-considerate Singh first cancelled the baraat, not wanting to impose a huge entertainment cost on the bride’s clan. And for his second condition, he asked the bride’s father, Satnam Singh, to stop burning paddy stubble.
This way, Gurbachan hit two birds with one stone.
His son had a waste-less wedding, and he had another ally in Satnam Singh on his side, in his battle against paddy stubble burning.
Gurbachan realised the harms of stubble burning to the environment, long before the practice was criticised for causing air pollution in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Hence, around two decades ago, the wise Punjabi farmer stopped burning paddy stubble in the 40 acres of land that he owned in Punjab’s Burj Deva Singh village along with his brother Gurdev.
He bought a zero-tillage machine, and then switched to a new technology called ‘Happy Seeder’, in 2007. A Happy Feeder can sow seeds without the need to clear the existing stubble.
Not only that, Gurbachan further persuaded at least 40 farmers in the village to put crop residue to good use, instead of burning it. His efforts made him famous and the mascot for an anti-stubble burning campaign in the district.
Gurbachan’s efforts have borne fruit. His fertiliser-free paddy fields are harvest-ready, and over time, helped improve the soil quality so much so that the farmer no longer needs to use fertilisers and insecticides.
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