Centre, Delhi govt in war of words over air pollution

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (PTI Photo)

The Centre and the Delhi government were embroiled in a war of words on Monday over the issue of air pollution in the national capital.

While Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar lashed out at the AAP government for promoting itself instead of tackling pollution, the latter challenged him to prove if it had taken a single penny out of the budget for its advertisement.

Delhi-NCR was engulfed in a thick blanket of smog since the festival of Diwali on October 27.

At an event here, Javadekar hit out at the Arvind Kejriwal government asking whether it was following the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) directives aimed at combating the severe air pollution in the national capital.

The AAP, in response, requested the central government to go above partisan politics and work for the betterment of India by taking steps to combat air pollution.

Speaking to the media after the event, Javadekar said his ministry has already held several meetings with the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan over pollution caused due to stubble burning.

"Pollution is a genuine problem. When I became the environment minister, I called a meeting of all five states regarding the issue. Seven to eight such meetings have already been held. Another one will happen soon.

"The Delhi government must check out the directions given by CPCB regarding pollution and should tell how much has it followed," the minister said.

A slew of recommendations have been given by a 10-member anti-pollution task force led by CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Hitting back at the AAP government over Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's recent comment that 40,000 machines provided by the Centre to curb stubble burning cannot help 22 lakh farmers, Javadekar said the Narendra Modi government has given Rs 1,100 crore for the same but the Delhi government was busy spending on advertisements.

"Delhi government is asking why have we have given 40,000 machines to a population of 22 lakh farmers, I want to say that we have given Rs 1,100 crore. Instead of spending Rs 1,500 crore on advertisements, the Delhi government should give this amount to farmers to address the issue of pollution," he told reporters.

Senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh responded by saying it is the responsibility of the state governments to help their farmers and provide technology to them.

"I challenge the Environment Minister to prove that we have taken a single penny out of the budget for advertisement," he said.

"Why should we pay? According to the NGT and Supreme Court guidelines, it is the responsibility of the state governments of Punjab and Haryana to help the farmers and provide technology by which they can stop the stubble burning," he said.

Pollution levels in Delhi peaked to a three-year high on Sunday as hundreds of distraught people took to social media to say they wanted to leave the city due to poor air quality.

Javadekar refused to take any further question on pollution. On being asked about the odd-even road rationing scheme, which came into force in the national capital from Monday, he said he was using electric vehicles, which are exempted.

The environment minister had recently slammed the Arvind Kejriwal government for "politicising" the issue of pollution and indulging in "blame game".

He had also criticised the Delhi chief minister for instigating school children to write to neighbouring states' chief ministers to stop stubble burning, saying he was presenting them as "villains".

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