October 17, 2017
Abstract: Although firecrackers have been banned in Delhi during Diwali, the real issue for Delhi’s air pollution is post-harvest burning of residual stubble by farmers to get their land ready for next sowing. The practice is widespread because the use of manual labour to uproot residue is expensive. What are the solutions? In the long run, taking a cue from the US, an appropriate regulatory framework can be designed to suit Indian conditions. Similarly, technological solutions, such as a tiller-less plough that facilitates sowing without the need for removal of residue, can be tested and adapted. Here, a subsidy mechanism taking into account the positive externalities from stopping the burning needs to be explored.
Short-term solutions would involve state support to farmers to use manual labour. Use of MGNREGA resources is a possible alternative. The key policy challenge is to find out the least expensive way of deploying workers to make an appreciable difference to the extent of burning.
Keywords: air quality; residue burning; manual harvesting; regulatory framework; technology; subsidy mechanism; MGNREGA; job corps; wage subsidy