New Delhi: At a time when air pollution has crossed dangerous levels and has become a major health hazard in Delhi-NCR, a Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting called on Friday to discuss whether the government intends to fix responsibility and accountability for actions and inactions, had to be cancelled as several MPs, commissioners of the capital’s three BJP-ruled municipal corporations, the vice-chairperson of Delhi Development Authority did not turn up.
A total of 21 Lok Sabha members and eight Rajya Sabha members were asked to attend the JPC meet. Only four — chairman Jagdambika Pal, Hasnain Masoodi, C.R. Patil and Sanjay Singh — turned up.
Former cricketer and BJP’s East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, whose name was among the Lok Sabha members summoned for the meeting, was among the many who skipped the meeting, but his pictures, laughing and enjoying sweets with his former cricket colleagues in Indore, appeared on social media to his great embarrassment.
The JPC also took a stern view of the officers’ absence, with its chairman Jagdambika Pal saying he will write to the Speaker about the misconduct. “There was no communication to the committee about the unavailability of the officials,” he said.
With Delhi remaining blanketed by thick smog for the fourth consecutive day, the Supreme Court on Friday again summoned chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to know about the steps taken by them to reduce air pollution.
The court questioned the AAP government over granting exemptions, including to two-and three-wheelers, during its odd-even scheme and said that the pollution level in Delhi is increasing in spite of the vehicle rotation scheme being in force.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said a final call on extending the Even-Odd scheme would be taken on Monday as the air quality in the national capital is expected to improve in the next two to three days.
“Air quality is expected to improve. We are keeping an eye on the situation. If it improves, there will be no need for (extending) odd-even. A final call will be taken on Monday morning,” he said.
The road-rationing scheme, rolled out on November 4, ended on Friday. The questions that the JPC members were planning to take up in the JPC included whether the government was planning to come up with any car pool policy or regulation.
About 50 lakh cars ply on Delhi roads every day.
Another issue that the JPC was to look into was the quantitative and qualitative utilisation report of the `1,150 crore given by the Centre to Punjab and Haryana in the last one year for combating air pollution, along with 14,000 crop residue disposal machines.
The third issue pertained to the Supreme Court’s recent observation that everybody, ranging from the secretary to the gram pradhan, will be held responsible for losses due to air pollution. The JPC was to seek the Centre’s response on whether it intends to define and fix responsibility through an internal mechanism.
The national capital is battling alarming levels of air pollution for the past few weeks.
The air quality index in Delhi stood at 463 at 4 pm on Friday, with Dwarka Sector 8 being the most-polluted area with an AQI of 495. Most of the air quality monitoring stations recorded an AQI above 450.
Neighbouring Faridabad (450), Ghaziabad (475), Greater Noida (445), Gurgaon (461) and Noida (474) too continued to reel under severe air quality. An AQI between 201 and 300 is considered ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’.
The government’s air quality monitoring and forecasting service SAFAR said a drizzle on Thursday night proved counter-productive and led to formation of secondary particles — a situation Delhi witnessed in the first week of November. The situation may worsen due to a drizzle on Friday night.
AAP government, which has been facing flak from Opposition parties, was quick to take a dig at Gambir on Friday....