Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Explained: The challenges in curbing cultivation of a banned rice variety in Punjab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PUSA-44;

Mains level: Agricultural Issues in India;

Why in the News?

Punjab’s paddy farmers have begun sowing seeds for this year’s kharif season, despite the ban on variety PUSA-44 that was implemented last year.

About the Cultivation of Paddy Varieties like PUSA-44:

  • Pusa-44 is a long-duration paddy variety bred by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and has been a key contributor to stubble burning.
  • Its growth cycle of 155-160 days, from nursery sowing to harvesting, leads to late October maturity, leaving a short window for field preparation for the next crop.

The Impact on Groundwater in Punjab as per “CGWA’s Groundwater Estimation Report 2020″

  • Severe over-extraction: 119 out of 138 blocks are over-exploited.Central and southern parts of Punjab (Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Mansa, Bathinda, Moga, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar) are most affected.
  • Water Table Depth: The average groundwater depth has crossed 70 meters (200 feet). In some southern areas, groundwater is unavailable even at 150-200 meters (450-600 feet).
  • Groundwater depletion vs. Demand: Punjab over-extracts 14 billion cubic meters (BCM) annually. Annual recharge is 20 BCM, but usage is 34 BCM.
  • Future Projections: Groundwater could drop below 300 meters in 18-20 years, making water highly contaminated and extraction costly. If the trend continues, Punjab may run out of groundwater for irrigation.

Why are Farmers in several districts unwilling to stop their Cultivation?

  • Higher Income: Farmers receive a higher yield and guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP), leading to increased incomes.
  • Seed Availability: Farmers retain seeds from previous seasons, and many stores have already sold seeds to farmers.
  • Resistance to Change: Despite awareness of the adverse effects, many farmers continue to cultivate PUSA-44. Significant cultivation areas in districts like Barnala, Sangrur, and Moga rely heavily on PUSA-44, making immediate change difficult.
  • Time Required for Transition: Changing entrenched agricultural practices and mindsets in heavily reliant districts cannot be achieved quickly.

Judicial Stand on the Cultivation of Paddy Varieties like PUSA-44:

  • The Supreme Court has emphasized the need to cease stubble burning in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, the discussion surrounding Pusa-2090 rice variety from its ability to provide an alternative to the problematic long-duration Pusa-44 variety.
    • Pusa-2090 rice matures in a shorter duration of 120-125 days while maintaining comparable yields, addressing the core issue of stubble burning.
  • Happy Seeder (Tractor) is also a solution that offers an eco-friendly alternative to stubble burning.

Way Forward:

  • Public Awareness and Guidance: Educate farmers on the benefits of short-duration varieties, which are more water-efficient and better for stubble management.
  • Supportive Policies: Government and agricultural experts need to provide support and incentives for transitioning to sustainable paddy varieties.
  • Gradual Implementation: Acknowledge the need for time and a phased approach to change farming practices in heavily reliant districts.

Mains PYQ:

Q The ideal solution of depleting groundwater resources in India is a water harvesting system.” How can it be made effective in urban areas? (15) (UPSC IAS/2018)

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