The Lok Sabha on Tuesday discussed air pollution in Delhi, which has seen air quality plummet to hazardous levels in recent weeks. Many parliamentarians said that farmers should not be vilified for burning stubble that contributes to the smog in the region, PTI reported.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Parvesh Verma criticised the Aam Aadmi Party government of Arvind Kejriwal for blaming stubble burning for pollution in the National Capital Region, and ignoring pollution caused by vehicles and dust. Biju Janata Dal leader Pinaki Misra said stubble burning was not a major contributor to pollution in the region, and agreed that farmers should not be targeted by politicians and authorities. He suggested use of biogas to get farmers not to burn crops.
“Earlier, the CM coughed alone,” Verma said, taking a dig at Kejriwal. “Now, the whole of Delhi coughs with him. The only thing he has given to Delhi for free is pollution.” AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said Verma’s remarks were “truly sickening”, The Indian Express reported.
Congress leader Manish Tewari asked why the government and Parliament had not discussed the climate emergency in the National Capital Region before. “Why do people have to knock the Supreme Court’s doors every year?” he asked. “Not only air, our rivers too are polluted.” The Supreme Court had stepped in two weeks ago after the situation deteriorated, pulling up the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for not doing enough to curb air pollution.
Tewari suggested that a committee, similar to the panel on public undertakings and estimates, should be set up to look into pollution and climate change.
Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar started her speech wearing a mask but took it off after some time, PTI reported. She urged the government to launch a “Swachh Hawa Mission [clean air mission]” on the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Ghosh Dastidar said it was time for the government to take note of the seriousness of the problem and initiate steps.
Bahujan Samaj Party MP Danish Ali said it was a matter of shame that only four of 29 legislators attended a parliamentary standing committee meeting on air pollution on November 15. The Aam Aadmi Party, which had then lashed out at BJP MP Gautam Gambhir for skipping the meeting, put out a tweet criticising the ruling party.
“When a discussion was going on about a serious issue like pollution, BJP MPs were missing,” said the party. “But the MPs were certainly present in a meeting which was aimed at spreading lies about water.” It was referring to a study conducted by the Centre that claimed Delhi’s water was the most unsafe among the 21 major cities studied.
Gautam Gambhir, however, urged the Arvind Kejriwal-led party to stop politicising the matter and take concrete steps to curb pollution. “The state can no longer get away with gimmick like odd-even and banning construction sites,” he told the Lower House. “We need long-term sustainable solutions and stop the blame game. It’s time to own up and act responsibly.”
Gambhir’s colleague and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari echoed his comments. “The Delhi government should have provided funds for sprinklers which can help in combating pollution,” he said. “However, it did not do so. Eventually, the funds came from the Narendra Modi-led Central government.”
Meanwhile, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development will meet on Wednesday to discuss air pollution in Delhi in the aftermath of outrage caused by the absence of most of its members at last week’s discussions, PTI reported. The committee’s head, BJP MP Jagdambika Pal, is learnt to have written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, expressing his displeasure at the absence of senior government officials at the previous meeting.
Officials from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and the Central Pollution Control Board will brief the parliamentarians about the role of central agencies in reducing air pollution in Delhi.