Terming Union Environment Minister and Delhi MP Harsh Vardhan’s “underplaying” of the persisting air pollution “unfortunate”, Congress MP from Rohtak Deepender Hooda wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to constitute and head a committee with all north Indian chief ministers. He said he would introduce a ‘Right to Clean Air’ Bill in the winter session of Parliament.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hooda, the only opposition MP from the NCR, said with 18 of the 19 Lok Sabha seats occupied by BJP leaders, it was “unlikely that they would take this issue up”.
“The problem is that air — the most essential thing for life — is not a political issue. There is no debate. For something like the film Padmavati, everyone, including my own party, will react. But something like this (pollution)… it doesn’t seem an important issue at all. It is unfortunate that the Union environment minister, a doctor and a Delhi MP, says air pollution is not a killer. Underplaying its seriousness gives the impression of a chalta hai attitude. This has an impact on every level of how the government tackles the issue,” he said.
In a recent interview last week, Union minister Harsh Vardhan had said air pollution wasn’t a killer: “To attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much.” This was directly in contradiction to what he said in 2015, when he had deemed air pollution a “silent killer” that could kill people, in particular children.
Hooda said, “Right now, every one is blaming every one else. Kejriwal will blame the Punjab and Haryana government. The Centre will blame the state governments. But the reality is that we have a very serious problem — children are breathing the equivalent of 50-odd cigarettes a day.”
In his letter to Modi, Hooda wrote, “Children are the worst hit and I think you would agree with me when I say that every child has the right to grow up in clean air. Matters have reached a point where every child, elderly persons and people from all age groups have been exposed to levels of smoke that comes from smoking about 50 cigarettes.”
While noting that other countries like Mexico and the United Kingdom had tackled the issue through coordinated work and effective legislation, the MP said he would be bringing a Private Members’ Bill called ‘Right to Clean Air’ Bill in the winter session, and would seek people’s suggestions through social media.
He added, “If we can have the Right to Food Act and Right to Education Act, why can’t we have a Right to Clean Air Act. Without food, you can survive for days, but without air you can’t survive for even a minute.”