On a hazy Monday morning, Jitender, 42, is doing the rounds of his five-acre field at Sonipat’s Barona village off the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway, bordering the national capital. He hopes his crop, the ‘Pusa 1121’ variety of basmati rice, would be ready for harvest in the next couple of days.Farmers in and around his village mostly grew basmati rice and harvested the crop manually, he said. “The grain of basmati is damaged during mechanised harvesting and fetches a lower price. We therefore harvest using labour, though it costs a little extra,” said Mr. Jitender. Farmers, he said, make up for it by selling parali (the upper part of paddy cut during harvest). He claimed that incidents of paddy stubble burning in and around his village have virtually stopped over the past two years because of the growing demand for parali as fodder. The parali usually fetches a farmer ₹2,000-₹3,000 per acre. “The stubble is mixed in the field while preparing the land for the next crop,” said Mr. Jitender.The region comprising Jhajjar, Sonipat, Panipat, and Jind districts, mostly growing basmati varieties, account for only 20-30% of stubble burning incidents; the majority of fires are reported from Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Karnal and Yamuna Nagar districts — better known as the “rice bowl” of Haryana. The farmers in this region prefer high-yielding ‘PR’ variety because of easy availability of water and the harvesting is done through combine harvesters. The removal of stalk and straw left in the field is a labour-intensive process. Watch | Stubble burning: M.S. Swaminathan’s solution Stubble burning: M.S. Swaminathan’s solutionVolume 90%Press shift question mark to access a list of keyboard shortcutsKeyboard ShortcutsPlay/PauseSPACEIncrease Volume↑Decrease Volume↓Seek Forward→Seek Backward←Captions On/OffcFullscreen/Exit FullscreenfMute/UnmutemSeek %0-9Live00:0001:3701:37 Combine harvestingMalkeet Singh of Landi village in Kurukshetra said small farmers could not afford to incur three-four times the usual cost to prepare the field for the next crop after combine harvesting and preferred to set the stalk and the straw on fire. “Instead of treating the farmers as criminals and registering a case for burning crop residue, the government should compensate us. The inputs cost of farming has increased several fold over the years, but the price for paddy has reduced to half. The farmer is well aware of the consequences, but it is cost-effective for him to burn [the stubble],” said Mr. Malkeet.Rajinder Singh, president, Haryana Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Karnal, who is working with farmers of around a dozen villages in his area to combat stubble burning, said the government must link cutting of paddy stalk and clearing of fields after combine harvesting with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to deal with the problem effectively.“It will be a win-win situation for all. The labourers would get work under the MGNREGS and the stubble burning would stop,” he said.Hans Raj of Firozpur Bangar village in Sonipat said the farmers were an easy target to blame for air pollution, but industries and vehicles were responsible for the prevailing situation in Delhi-NCR and the National Capital Region.“Farmers burning the crop residue is mostly in Punjab and Lahore in Pakistan. There are very few instances in Haryana,” he said, adding that parali was, in fact, in short supply in his village.Local parali trader Gopi said the paddy residue is in huge demand in dairies and cowsheds and is also used for packaging purposes. He said he bought the parali from around a dozen villages in Kharkhoda area of Sonipat and not a single instance of crop burning was reported there this year. “Why would the farmer burn when he can make good money out of it,” he asked.“With the farmers failing to fetch adequate price for their produce, ₹3,000 per acre for parali is a welcome money for them,” said Shamsher Singh, from the neighbouring Saidpur village.