Delhi’s pollution woes: Centre, state abdicating responsibility

Devsagar Singh

New Delhi, Nov 16: The recurring pollution problem in Delhi year after year during winter months goes to prove that neither the Centre nor the Delhi Government is seriously interested in solving it. Judicial intervention at the highest level is not new. It has become customary for enthusiasts to approach the apex court on Delhi’s pollution woes only to make temporary headlines. It is back to square one once the pollution level goes down a little. Everything becomes business as usual.

             That Delhi is among most polluted cities in the world has brought enough disrepute to the country. At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making pioneering  statements in world forums  on tackling carbon emission  hogging international headlines, it is ironic that he is unable to take care of pollution in his own backyard. What does it prove? Making tall claims may fool some people for some time but not all people for all times.

           The Government has a full-fledged ministry of environment. Its work seems limited to issuing green signals to industries for setting up units after perfunctory  studies. There are thousands of medium, small and big industrial units in and around the NCT region which cause pollution in Delhi. It may be easy for the Centre to pass the buck on Delhi government citing jurisdictional issues. Indeed, this is what is happening.

         On its part,  the Kejriwal Government is quick to put the blame on the neighboring states—Haryana, Punjab and UP—for polluting Delhi by burning crop residues at this time of the year. The Centre, unable to rein in its own governments in at least two states, claims that these states are hardly contributing 4 per cent of Delhi’s pollution by burning stubbles as against 35 per cent claimed by the Delhi Government.

            Even the Supreme Court hearing the matter is puzzled. If the three states are only marginally responsible for the capital’s pollution, why make such hue and cry against them. The onus is back on the Delhi Government for not controlling pollution caused by vehicles,  construction dusts and coal-fired power plants.

           The reality is that stubble burning by farmers remains a key factor for causing pollution, but the Centre prefers to look the other way because of annoying the farming community which happens to be the major vote bank. The situation this year is doubly compounded because of the farmers ongoing agitation against Centre’s three contentious farm laws. On the forefront are  the farmers from Punjab , Haryana and Western UP, the three states responsible for much of Delhi’s pollution woes.

              The  lesson  is clear: Delhi  residents are condemned to breathe polluted air putting themselves to serious health hazards.   Multiple studies have shown that abnormally large number of senior citizens and children, apart from chronic respiratory ailment patients,  fall sick during winter because of polluted air. If pollution is left to the care of God in the national capital, imagine what could be the case elsewhere in the country? It is high time the responsibility is fixed for keeping Delhi’s air clean once and for all. By squabbling among themselves, the top leaders have only shown that they are incapable  of solving people’s problems. Now the people have to find an answer themselves—obviously at the hustings.

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