Lok Sabha Debate on Air Pollution: Who Said What?

Several MPs participated in a discussion on “Air Pollution and Climate Change” in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

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The sun is vaguely seen behind the Signature Bridge amid heavy smog, in New Delhi.
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Delhi and the National Capital Region have been grappling with hazardous levels of air pollution since 27 October, with some areas having the Air Quality Index (AQI) as high as 900. The Delhi government has repeatedly asserted that stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states contributes significantly to the pollution in the national capital.

Participating in a discussion on "Air Pollution and Climate Change" in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, 19 November, some leaders recommended the formation of a Standing Committee to look into the same, while others criticised Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for putting the blame of pollution on stubble burning.

Let’s look at what several members of parliament said in Lok Sabha on the rising levels of pollution in Delhi.

Launch Swachh Hawa Mission: Kakoli Ghosh

Seeking to emphasise the seriousness of air pollution, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar of the Trinamool Congress participated in the discussion wearing a mask.

She demanded that the government should also launch a “Swachh Hawa Mission” (clean air mission) on the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Dastidar started speaking on the issue wearing a pollution mask, but later took it off. She said, “It is our human right to breathe clean air.”

She said that it was time that the government took note of the seriousness of the problem and initiated steps.

A Climate Emergency: Gautam Ghambir

BJP MP from East Delhi Gautam Gambhir said that it was time that the issue of air pollution not be politicised.

“The topic of discussion is something that affects everyone irrespective of our caste, creed, age and religion. It is affecting us while we stand and talk about it in Parliament. It is high time we stop politicising this issue.”
Gautam Ghambir, BJP MP

"The state is that of a climate emergency – Delhi is the worst affected. The state can no longer get away with gimmicks like Odd-Even and banning construction sites. We need long term sustainable solutions and stop the blame game. It is time to own up and act responsibly," he added.

Regarding stubble burning, he said, "We have to devise a strategy for representatives of various states to work together to solve this crisis. Merely penalising farmers for burning their crops will not be enough. We have to start exploring innovative ways."

‘Central Government Gave Funds For Sprinklers, Not AAP’

BJP MP from North East Delhi Manoj Tiwari took a dig at the AAP government and suggested that some way should be found out to punish the state which fails to take action to stop air pollution as this is a state subject.

This will also convey to the state that it is running away from its responsibility, he said, adding the central government provides funds to buy water sprinklers.

The Delhi government should have provided funds for these sprinklers, however, it did not do so and eventually, the funds came from the central government, he added.

Tiwari also alleged that the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal deliberately stopped Rs 9,000 crore fund for local bodies. He said that Delhi government could have bought stubble from the neighbouring states for Rs 50 crore.

Stubble Burning Not a Major Cause, Say MPs

BJP MP Pravesh Verma accused Kejriwal of not doing anything to curb air pollution in the city and criticised him for blaming farmers of neighbouring states for the problem.

The West Delhi MP also slammed the AAP government for ignoring major sources of pollution, including vehicles and dust.

Verma claimed that Rs 600 crore was spent by the Delhi government on advertisements but little had been actually done to curb pollution. By blaming the farmers in villages for pollution, he said, the Delhi government was only widening the urban-rural divide.

The BJP MP claimed that the AAP government had spent Rs 70 crore on publicising the odd-even road rationing scheme but did not take steps to increase the number of public buses.

He said that people are using personal vehicles due to poor public transport facilities, which is adding to the pollution. He also said the Delhi chief minister purchased 50 lakh pollution masks that "are of no use to the people".

Congress leader Manish Tewari too said that stubble burning is not a major pollutant in Delhi and adjoining areas, hence small farmers should not alone be blamed for the present situation. He further proposed a standing committee to keep a check on pollution and climate change.

“Just like there are standing committees such as Committee on Public Undertakings and Estimates Committee, there should be a committee to look into pollution and climate change.”
Congress leader Manish Tewari

Quoting a World Health Organization report, he said that 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are Indian cities and the problem of air pollution is not just limited to Delhi.

Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra also said that stubble burning is not a major contributor of pollution in Delhi and the farmers should not be vilified. He suggested using stubble for bio gas and fuel to incentivise farmers against burning it.

Three BJP MP’s Miss The Debate

BJP MPs Ramesh Bidhuri and Hans Raj Hans did not attend the debate in Lok Sabha over air pollution, while Union Minister and MP Harsh Vardhan was speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019.

AAP took to Twitter and slammed the BJP leaders for not attending the debate. “When a debate was going on on an issue as serious as pollution, BJP MPs were missing,” the tweet mentioned.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI, News18)

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