Batala (Punjab): Farmers blocked railway track near Batala on Thursday to protest against the issues of stubble burning, said ANI. They were also demanding more sugar mills in the state. Interestingly, while farmers across the state have regularly been burning stubble across the state, the officials are expecting a lower number of such incidents this year. Also Read - Rajasthan Sizzles as Mercury Rises, IMD Issues 'Red Alert' For Several Parts of North India

Meanwhile, state Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for compensation to farmers in lieu of stubble burning. Captain Amarinder reportedly apprised Prime Minister Modi with the problem of stubble burning that needed to be urgently addressed. Also Read - Migrant Workers Allegedly Loot Four Cartons of Snacks Meant For Shramik Trains at Old Delhi Railway Station

On stubble burning, an official told PTI that the state was expecting not more than 12,000 stubble burning incidents this season, a reduction of about 70 per cent compared to last year, on the back of a “vigorous” awareness drive and distribution of crop residue management machinery. Also Read - 'Gupta & Daughters': Breaking Traditions, This Punjab Chemist Names Shop After His Girls; Hailed on Twitter

Stubble burning in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana is a major cause of air pollution not only in the two states but also in the national capital. The number of farm fires has indeed dropped over the years. So far in 2018, the state has recorded 1,212 cases of paddy stubble burning as against 3,141 and 6,733 in the corresponding periods in 2017 and 2016 respectively. Amritsar has reported 412 stubble burning incidents so far this year, the state’s highest. It is followed by Tarn Taran with 225 incidents and Patiala with 159 incidents.

Satellite images of farm fires are being captured and the concerned district authorities are alerted, officials said. The state has also launched a massive awareness drive for farmers to check the stubble burning incidents. As many as 8,000 nodal officers have been appointed to spread awareness about the ill-effects of stubble burning in paddy growing villages.

Besides running an awareness drive, Punjab is also banking on machinery for effective crop management.   Every year as winter approaches, the smoke from the farm fires in Punjab and Haryana, combined with vehicular and industrial emissions and low wind speeds result in thick smog enveloping parts of north India.

The two states annually generate 220 lakh tonne and 65 lakh tonne of paddy stubble, respectively. Punjab has so far earned Rs 10.77 lakh by penalising farmers who burnt paddy stubble.