Poor north Indian farmers think they are scapegoats for a wider problem
The pounding beats of bhangra music blare out of Satish’s tractor as it roars across the charred, black earth of his farm. Fresh seeds are scattered in its wake. Yet hanging thick in the air, over this scene of new beginnings, is the tell-tale smoky stench of what came before.
Like tens of thousands of farmers in India’s northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, Satish, whose farm sits on the outskirts of the rural Haryana village of Gharaunda, had recently cleared his fields of old rice crop stubble to make way for wheat by setting it alight. The practice was banned when its contribution to the mounting pollution crisis in nearby Delhi and across northern India became impossible to ignore, but deprived of equally cheap and easy alternatives of preparing the fields, farmers have continued to flout the law.