While thick smog continues to envelop Delhi and other parts of Northen India, the Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab state governments on an emergency like situation in the region.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had admitted the petition for an urgent hearing earlier in the day. Seeking immediate responses from the governments over steps to improve the situation, the bench also said that there won’t be any stay on matters pertaining to pollution which are going on before any other court.
The Supreme Court also issued a notice to the concerned governments on the plea which also sought a direction to promote solar energy and electric vehicles in order to combat pollution. The apex court was responding to a plea filed by lawyer R K Kapoor who claimed that stubble burning, dust pollution has led to the hazardous air quality in the regions. Schools in the National Capital were also closed for four days because of the smoggy conditions. They reopened today and many students were seen wearing masks. Teachers said “collective efforts must be made and closing schools is not a solution”
Delhi’s air quality which started worsening since last week was recorded at 460 in the last 24 hours, falling into the severe category as per the data from CPCB. Ghaziabad was pegged at 497 and Gurugram and Noida at 466, reports ANI. The satisfactory air quality level as per CPCB is 100. Ten trains scheduled for today were cancelled and four scheduled for tomorrow have been cancelled because of the low-visibility. A number of hospitals in the city have experienced a rise in the number of patients complaining about headaches, throat burning and chest pain.
Read | Delhi air pollution: Every breath you take. Click here
Delhi government v/s NGT
Meanwhile, the Delhi government which had deferred the implementation of the odd-even vehicle scheme in the city filed a review petition in the National Green Tribunal seeking exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers from the vehicle rationing policy. The NGT earlier in the day had launched a scathing attack for not filing a review petition, asking if the government is just doing a media stunt.
The green panel on November 11 had approved the AAP government’s decision to implement the odd-even vehicle scheme for five days from November 13, ordering that no exemption should be allowed to “any person or officer and two-wheelers”. The AAP government has contended that including women drivers in the scheme could pose a security risk for the commuters and including two-wheelers in the policy would add to the public burden. The green body has scheduled to hear the petition tomorrow.
The government which has come under criticism from NGT for not being able to control the alarming pollution levels in the city is said to be in touch with the environmental scientists and experts to keep a tab of the situation. “Movement of trucks and construction works are under scrutiny, water is being sprinkled, we are continuously monitoring the situation,” Delhi’s Transport Minister Gopal Rai said, adding “there is a meeting with Pawan Hans officials today to discuss the plan of an aerial sprinkling of water”.
Read | Delhi pollution: Diplomats in city say this isn’t what we signed up for. Click here
Political blame game
While the National capital continued to reel with the deteriorating air quality, the concerned state governments passed the buck for not effectively responding to the crisis. While AAP’s Gopal Rai hit out at the Haryana government for “playing blame game on stubble burning instead of taking action in his own state”, CM Manohar Lal Khattar wrote an open letter to Delhi’s CM Arvind Kejriwal accusing him of not being able to “rise over short-term electoral interests.” Earlier Punjab’s Chief Minister had also attacked Kejriwal saying he “has his own viewpoints on everything without understanding the situation.”
— Manohar Lal (@mlkhattar) November 13, 2017
The Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also took a poetic dig at the pollution saying, “Seene me jalan, ankhon me tufan sa kyon hai, is sheher me har shaks pareshan sa kyon hai, kya batayenge sahab, sab jaankar anjaan kyun hai,” (What is the cause of the burning sensation in the chest and storm in the eyes? Why is every person in this city troubled? What do we tell, why everyone is pretending ingornat despite knowing it all).
Concerned over the rising air pollution levels, Congress’s Deepender Hooda said that he has written to PM Modi requesting him to consitute a high-level committee comprising all chief ministers of northern states. He is also planning to move a private member bill called ‘Right to Clean Air Bill’ in the Lok Sabha in the winter session. “Everyone should rise above political lines and sit together, present before nation a plan with budgetary provisions,” reports ANI.
(With inputs from agencies)