CMs urge Centre to convene urgent meeting
New Delhi/Chandigarh: Amid a blame game over failure to check toxic haze that has enveloped the national capital and neighbouring areas, the chief ministers of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on Saturday called for urgent intervention by the Centre to draw a joint plan with them to address the "serious" situation.
Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia accused Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar of postponing meetings with state environment ministers thrice, on September 12, October 17 and on October 19, saying either he has no time or does not consider treating the national capital's poor air quality a priority.
He also claimed that with the Centre making 63,000 machines to stop stubble burning available in two years, it might take 50-60 years to implement the programme and asked "what should the people of Delhi-NCR do" during this period
Sisodia's remarks came on a day Javadekar alleged that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was politicising the issue by asking school students to write letters to his Punjab and Haryana counterparts over pollution caused due to stubble burning and was to trying to project the other chief minister as "villains".
"We have started holding inter-state meetings of NCR ministers and officials. All stakeholders need to act together and not blame each other," he said.
Kejriwal, meanwhile, wrote to Javadekar saying air pollution "is not a Delhi specific issue, it is a North India issue and therefore, requires a North India solution under the chairmanship" of the Union Minister.
Referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit, he said India's image will be affected due to the current situation.
"I wonder what impression would she (Merkel) carry of India with such high levels of pollution," Kejriwal said.
"The images of international cricketers playing cricket wearing masks does not create a good image of India," he said.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also wrote to Javadekar requesting him to convene a meeting of chief ministers of Delhi and neighbouring states to prepare a joint strategy to address the problem of severe pollution in the National Capital Region.
Without naming anyone, Khattar also criticised the "growing tendency" on the part of some stakeholders to "play petty politics" on the issue.
The AAP government in Delhi has been blaming BJP-ruled Haryana and the Congress-ruled Punjab for failing to check stubble burning which is considered one of the main contributors to air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region
The Haryana chief minister, in a telephonic conversation with Javadekar earlier in the day, requested him to convene a meeting, preferably on Sunday.
Following up his conversation with a letter, Khattar said the meeting of all chief ministers and environment ministers of the states concerned would help evolve an actionable plan and a joint strategy to address the serious situation.
With stubble burning in his state blamed for pollution, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressing on the need for the Centre to find a solution in consultation with the states. He underscored that his state was not oblivious to the misery of people in the national capital, "whatever many around the country might have been led to believe.
He also noted that the Centre had failed to respond to his proposal for a separate bonus amount at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal to facilitate stubble management by the farmers.
"Is it not your government's task, Mr. Prime Minister, to search for that permanent solution, in consultation with all the other stakeholders, including Punjab, Delhi and Haryana? he said
Admitting that stubble fires, supported by the winds blowing in the wrong direction, were contributing to the toxic levels of air pollution that prevail today in Delhi, the chief minister, at the same time, noted that data from several independent agencies had pointed out that large-scale industrial pollution, the traffic overload, the excessive construction activity taking place in Delhi were equally, if not more, to blame.
But, Singh said, he took no solace from this data, nor could this blame game help any of them to assuage our own guilt in a matter of such serious national consequence.
The chief minister further wrote that Punjab had tried to enforce the law against stubble burning to the maximum extent possible, and was even penalising the farmers, but it does not really deter the farmers from resorting to burning of paddy straw to keep their pathetic margins from falling further.
Delhi and Haryana, too, were doing what they could, in their own ways, he pointed out, and added that the role of the Centre had remained dubious in the whole affair, even though the central government was the biggest stakeholder of national prosperity.
However, Javadekar earlier said air pollution is a problem which has aggravated in the past 15 years and is now being remedied by the Narendra Modi government.
"I feel it is very unfortunate that the Delhi chief minister is politicising the issue of pollution and indulging in blame game instead of finding a solution. He is instigating children to send letters to Haryana and Punjab chief ministers to present them in a bad light and as villains," the minister said on Saturday.
"The solution to air pollution is not with a 'switch on' and 'switch off' mode. It is with sustained efforts that pollution will be brought down. All the state agencies and people need to participate in this effort to combat it," the minister said.
Taking a dig at the Delhi chief minister, Javadekar, who is also the minister for information and broadcasting, said that instead of spending crores of rupees on advertisements, the Delhi government should focus on using the money for larger good.
"I appeal to all agencies to work together in combating air pollution and give relief to the people and not indulge in cheap politics," he said and urged people to use cycles instead of motor vehicles as much as possible and travel by public transport.