Pollution soars, Delhi chokes: But netas choking with politics

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FILE - This Jan. 18, 2019 file photo shows a cyclist amidst morning smog in New Delhi, India. Beth Gardiner’s new book “Choked” documents how air pollution is responsible for seven million premature deaths around the world. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

New Delhi:  Not just Delhi’s air that is turning toxic but the political war of words too is turning one. In a press conference held in Delhi, just hours before the odd-even scheme kicks in the national capital, the Aam Aadmi Party targeted BJP and Congress in the same vain, by flashing maps of stubble burning from Punjab and questioning the alleged inaction of the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.

“There is not a single corner in Punjab where stubble burning hasn’t taken place. Entire north India is under the thick cloud of smog. Half of the population is under risk. But why has not Prakash Javadekar called a single emergency meeting in the last 5 days?”, asked Atishi Marlena of the AAP.

Likening it to an “environmental emergency”, she demanded an answer from Javadekar in “next one hour” as on when does he intend to convene an emergency meeting of all environment ministers of all north Indian states.

This politics on pollution comes on a day when Delhi and its adjoining National Capital region woke up on Sunday with a thick layer of smog virtually dropping visibility to barely a few feet. The overall Air Quality Index of Delhi remained 625 on Sunday, decreasing visibility into near zero and creating a public scare. Some areas of Delhi like Bawana in fact witnessed AQI of 999.

Meanwhile, DPCC Chief Subhash Chopra led an agitation in front of Kejriwal’s residence demanding accountability. In an animated protest, the Delhi Congress shouted anti-Kejriwal slogans. However, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s reaction was much more measured. He wrote to Prime Minister Modi on Saturday, stressing the need to build a consensus on tackling the issue apolitically.

Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari started distributing masks as a way to “highlight” the alleged inefficiency of the Kejriwal government in tackling pollution. He said that the BJP will be distributing about one lakh masks in Delhi over the next 15 days. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t far behind as he too distributed masks to school children in the capital amid rising PM 2.5 levels. In retort to BJP’s 1 lakh mask, Kejriwal promised to distribute a whopping 50 lakh masks. Though, doctors say, the mask that are distributed by both can hardly be helpful in dealing with a grim situation as Delhi is in right now.

This politics on pollution started much earlier when the AAP had accused the BJP of instigating people in Delhi to burst crackers on Diwali so that the pollution level soars.

With optics, rhetoric and accusations flying thick and fast, politicians seem to have forgotten what they have been fighting for – spiralling pollution.