Punjab has witnessed more than 23,000 incidents of farm fire in the past over one month during the ongoing Kharif marketing season, according to official data.
With many paddy growers continuing to defy the ban on burning crop residue, the authorities concerned have imposed a fine of over Rs 85 lakh on erring farmers.
An official of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) attributed the rise in stubble burning incidents this year to the early arrival of paddy crop and expressed hope that the number of such cases would decrease.
The spurt in stubble burning incidents came despite the state government appointing 8,000 nodal officers to check farm fires, besides giving more machines for the management of crop residue.
Punjab has reported a total of 23,177 farm fire incidents for the period September 21 till October 29, according to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data.
The state had seen 19,869 stubble burning incidents in the corresponding period of last year, according to the data.
On Thursday, the state reported 1,541 farm fire incidents with Sangrur district seeing 265 stubble burning cases, the highest in the state, it said.
Among other districts, Patiala saw 165 incidents of farm fire, followed by 156 in Ferozepur, 127 in Bathinda and 102 in Mansa.
Rupnagar district saw only one farm fire incident, according to the data.
The PPCB authorities have imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 85.76 lakh in 3,172 farm fire cases.
So far, about Rs 2 lakh has been recovered from defaulting farmers, an official of the PPCB said.
A total of 16 FIRs have been registered so far under section 188 (disobeying orders) of the Indian Penal Code against farmers for burning residue, the official said, adding 39 cases had also been filed in the court under the relevant provisions of the Air Act.
The state government appointed 8,000 nodal officers in paddy growing villages to check stubble burning this season.
These officers were supposed to create awareness in villages through demonstration of machines used in straw management and also work in close coordination with the revenue, rural development and panchayats and agriculture departments.
Besides, the state authorities had also planned to give more 23,500 machines to farmers for paddy straw management.
In the last two years, 51,000 paddy straw management machines have been distributed among farmers in the state.
The Punjab government has been seeking from the Centre Rs 100 per quintal as compensation to enable farmers to manage paddy straw without burning it.
But farmers have been seeking Rs 200 per quintal as a bonus or Rs 6,000 per acre for the management of paddy straw.
"Farmers cannot bear expenditure on the management of crop residue and the government should give compensation for the same to them," said Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said.
Every year, Punjab and Haryana are blamed for rising air pollution and smog, caused by crop residue burning by growers. Punjab alone generates 20 million tonnes of paddy stubble annually.