Pollution: Busy with 'jalebi', Gambhir skips panel meet

4 out of 29 MPs attend Par panel meet

Photo posted on the official twitter account of former cricketer VVS Laxman on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, shows Laxman, cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir and broadcaster Jatin Sapru eating 'Jalebis' and 'Pohe' for breakfast, in Indore, Saturday. (PTI Photo)

At a time Delhi is gasping for fresh air, 25 out of 29 MPs, including East Delhi's cricketer-turned-lawmaker Gautam Gambhir, chose to skip a meeting of a Parliamentary panel on Friday to discuss the pollution levels in the national capital and its suburbs, leading to the cancellation of the deliberations.

Gambhir, the lone Lok Sabha MP from Delhi in the 29-member Standing Committee on Urban Development, attracted most of the criticism as several questioned his presence in Madhya Pradesh's Indore where the first cricket Test match between India and Bangladesh is being held now.

Adding more ammunition to the criticism was a photo shared by former cricketer VVS Laxman on Twitter in which he along with Gambhir and a TV presenter were seen enjoying 'jalebi' from an eatery in Indore before the start of day's play.

Only four MPs -- panel chairperson Jagadambika Pal (BJP), AAP's Rajya Sabha MP from Delhi Sanjay Singh, National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi and BJP's C R Patil -- came for the meeting. Several officials also did not attend the meeting to discuss the 'role of municipal corporations of Delhi, DDA, NDMC, CPWD and NBCC in reducing air pollution in Delhi and local municipal corporation in National Capital Region'.

BJP has 15 MPs in the panel followed by Congress with four, Trinamool Congress with two and one each from AAP, CPI(M), National Conference, YSR Congress, Shiv Sena, AIMIM, JD(U) and independent. There are two vacancies.

For the past few weeks, Delhi and its suburbs are facing high pollution level, which a section attribute to stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.

AAP pounded on Gambhir, who had taken to Twitter in the recent days to attack Arvind Kejriwal-led government on Delhi's pollution, saying, "Delhi is choking and Gautam Gambhir is busy enjoying in Indore...is this the level of your seriousness regarding air pollution?"

"Instead of sitting in commentary box and enjoying...We challenge Gautam Gambhir to stop playing blame games over pollution and attend meetings on air pollution which he skipped. Contempt of Court! Strict action should be taken against all absentees!" AAP tweeted.

Reacting to the AAP attack, Gambhir said his work for Delhiites will speak for itself and “if abusing me will ensure reduction in Delhi's pollution, AAP should shower abuses on me.”

“I have not entered politics to make money but I do have a family to support....Making my commercial engagements (which were entered into before I had become an MP) an issue to mask the incompetence and political greed of their leader, is the saddest thing that the party which claims to represent honest people could do.

Claiming that the meeting got cancelled because as "BJP-run MCDs, BJP-run DDA, MOEF bureaucrats reporting to BJP-run union government and BJP MPs" failed to turn up showing their "criminal negligence and apathy", AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said officials should be suspended and proceedings should be initiated against BJP MPs who bunked.

"In addition to this, all bureaucrats and MPs who bunked the meeting should be removed from the comforts of air purified rooms, made to stand outside all day long, at a hotspot, so that they realise the gravity of the situation," he said.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said he will probe why the officials did not attend the meeting. A Ministry spokesperson said a Deputy Secretary from the Ministry and another official from Central Pollution Control Board had gone for the meeting while a Joint Secretary could not attend as she was to appear in Supreme Court.

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