AAP-BJP trade charges as odd-even scheme begins

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (L) and Senior BJP leader Vijay Goel (R) (PTI Photos)

As the odd-even road rationing scheme kicked in here on Monday, the ruling AAP and the BJP accused each other of doling politics over it and not making much efforts to combat air pollution.

Senior BJP leader Vijay Goel termed the initiative "an election stunt" by the Kejriwal government and violated the rule by driving an SUV with an odd last digit in its registration number. His action invited a rebuke from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who said he was pained by this behaviour.

"At a time when residents of Delhi are supporting the odd-even scheme, the BJP is opposing the efforts of people to reduce pollution. This is not right. The BJP should not do politics. They should support the people of Delhi," he told reporters at his residence before he carpooled with Health Minister Satyendar Jain and Labour Minister Gopal Rai to his office.

On his part, Goel alleged the Kejriwal government failed to do anything to curb pollution in the past five years.

"I am doing this as a symbolic protest against the Kejriwal government's failure to do anything in five years to curb pollution in Delhi. It is now enacting a drama. It's an election stunt in view of the coming assembly polls," he told reporters at his residence.

The 12-day odd-even rules kicked in on Monday, and the chief minister said he was getting reports that people were following it nearly 100 per cent.

Last week, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi-NCR following an alarming level of pollution which the AAP government said was because of stubble-burning in neighbouring states.

Reacting to Union Environment Prakash Javadekar's comment that the AAP government was busy spending on advertisements, Kejriwal said, "He (Javadekar) is doing politics. Our government's budget for advertisements is Rs 150-200 crore. Out of this, a good chunk is still unused. They spread lies."

"We have spent money on anti-dengue campaign and awareness. Should we not spread awareness? Should we allow people to die? The Delhi government's anti-dengue campaign is one of its kind...

"Delhi is the only city which has eradicated dengue through its campaign - '10 hafte 10 baje 10 minutes'," he said.

Instead of trying to discount people's efforts, the Union minister should praise them for dealing with dengue, Kejriwal said.

"The entire North India is witnessing an alarming level of pollution. What is the role of Delhi in it? The Centre should sit together with the states concerned.

"Only the Centre can take steps to reduce stubble-burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Why does he (Javadekar) blame Delhi and its residents (for stubble burning?," he said.

Reacting to Delhi 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 earlier in the day said the Centre has given Rs 1,100 crores for the same but the AAP government was busy spending money on advertisements.

"The Delhi government is asking why have we given 40,000 machines to a population of 22 lakh farmers. I want to say that we have given Rs 1,100 crores. 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 after attending an event here.

Hitting back at Javadekar, Sisodia said that the entire north India would not have faced the effects of stubble-burning had the Union minister convened a coordination meeting of the states concerned three-four months back.

"He is the one who did not convene the meeting. Had he done a coordination meeting of the states three-four months back, the entire north India would not have faced the effects of stubble burning and people would not have faced problems in breathing.." Sisodia told reporters.

On the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) convening a meeting on the rising level of pollution on Sunday, the deputy chief minister said, "The time for meeting has ended. We will certainly look into it but the Centre should also look into it."

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.

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