In this episode of the State of the Economy podcast, businessline’s Subramani Ra Mancombu talks to Viral Thakker, partner and sustainability leader at Deloitte India, about the issues of stubble burning in North India and how Deloitte India focuses on combating this problem.

The conversation begins with addressing how the smog over India’s capital, Delhi, signals the severity of stubble burning. Farmers in Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh have resorted to this practice due to challenges in clearing their farms between the Rabi and Kharif cropping seasons, aggravated by unseasonal rains.

The podcast goes on to mention how Deloitte India recognises the gravity of the situation and has taken proactive steps to address stubble burning in Haryana. Thakker details Deloitte’s 2021 pilot project in Karnal district, where they engaged with 2,500 farmers, identified challenges, and initiated a mobile application akin to an “Uber for farmers.” This innovative solution facilitates equipment sharing among farmers, reducing the need for burning stubble.

In 2022, Deloitte expanded its efforts, covering 666 villages in Haryana, partnering with other private sector entities, and leveraging technology such as satellite-based images and WhatsApp support. The results are promising, with a 38% reduction in fires compared to the previous year.

The conversation goes on to address the economic viability of stubble utilisation, efforts to connect farmers with companies for stubble-based products, and the importance of addressing the environmental and health impacts of burning.

The episode concludes with Thaker sharing his lessons learned and future plans, expressing Deloitte’s commitment to extending his initiatives to other states.