Coming straight to the key issue, with the air in Delhi beginning to worsen once again, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on December 4 has pulled up the Delhi government headed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for not filing a comprehensive action plan detailing ways to deal with the condition. It also questioned authorities on why they held the India-Sri Lanka cricket match at Delhi despite the bad air quality? Why could the match be not held at any other appropriate place?
Needless to say, this is for the first time that a foreign country are playing with masks on their faces! Not just this, some Sri Lankan players complained of uneasiness and one even vomited! It is most disgusting to see that knowing fully well what Delhi is going through yet Delhi was approved for conducting matches and that too not domestic matches but international matches involving players of other countries like Sri Lanka! This should never have happened at the first place!
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the AAP government to file the action plan within the next 48 hours, even as the State government sought more time stating that both the Chief Secretary and the Environment Secretary had recently changed. But the Bench was very furious with the nonchalant approach of the Delhi government! It minced no words in making it clear what it wanted to convey to the Delhi government!
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the Bench lashed out in no uncertain terms saying that, “Where is your action plan? Why have you not submitted it? What can we do if you keep on changing everybody? It’s not our problem if people don’t want to stick to you. You keep on doing meetings but tell us a single action or step you have taken in the last four days to combat air pollution”. Delhi government must take this rap on the knuckles most seriously. This rap has come from none other than the NGT!
To be sure, the Green Tribunal was further more irked by authorities for conducting the third Test between Sri Lanka and India on December 3, which was disrupted due to smog and Lankan players had complained of uneasiness. Why was the match not shifted to some place other than Delhi or cancelled? Why was the green signal given to the match at the first place?
It merits no reiteration that the Bench also minced just no words in making it absolutely clear that, “Every newspaper has been carrying headline that the air pollution was going to be higher this week. Still you took no action. Even the players were playing the match wearing masks. You should have not held the match if the air quality was so bad. Are people of Delhi supposed to bear this?” The Tribunal also pulled up the Delhi government for not introducing odd-even car rationing scheme at this point of time when the air quality is severe!
As it turned out, the AAP government was also pulled up for not introducing the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme at this point when the air quality is severe. It said that, “You want exemptions for two wheelers but you do not apply your mind that these 60 lakh vehicles cause the maximum pollution.” It also said that despite stating before the Tribunal that 4,000 buses would be introduced to decongest the city roads, the city government has not procured a single bus even after three years of assurance. This is really most shocking to learn!
It is the bounden duty of the Delhi government to act promptly because Delhi is our national capital and all this is battering our international image which can never be good for the long term national interests in any manner! Even UN just recently expressed its utmost concern over the pollution level in Delhi. Action has to be taken on a war footing and there is just no other way out.
It is a matter of grave concern that pollution levels in Delhi has worsened on December 4 as the air quality index inched towards ‘severe’. The air quality index was recorded at 390ug/m3 (of a maximum of 500) and was in the ‘very poor’ range. Pollution levels had been shooting up over the past few days because of low wind speed and high moisture levels. This is the most worrying aspect and yet we see little action being taken on the ground to check this. The ground situation in Delhi has become so worse that 1 in 7 traffic cops has lung trouble.
It must be added here that the NGT Bench had on November 17 directed the Delhi government and other NCR states to submit an action plan. The plan was supposed to contain measures that could come into force automatically when pollution hits emergency levels. It is a matter of deep regret that even though Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan have already submitted their plan well in time, Delhi is yet to do so!
All said and done, the Sri Lankan players cannot be faulted for wearing masks. They wore masks to protect themselves from the thick smog that had enveloped the whole atmosphere where the match was being played at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi! NGT very rightly rapped the Delhi government for its inaction because if timely action had been taken, India perhaps could have been saved from massive international embarrassment! Delhi government must now admit its grave errors as very rightly pointed out by NGT and set them right by working very hard on this score so that the damage done can be undone to some extent if not fully!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.