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.
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.
The situation became so grave that the locals stopped sending their kids to school. Rains would cause the fields to fill up with black mud, with a thick layer of soot over farming machines and equipment.
Tarn Taran’s Gurbachan Singh has been taking a proactive approach, trying to instil 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.
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.