Weather and environment monitoring agencies in the National Capital almost unanimously forecast a terrible week for Delhites as far as air quality is concerned. Skymetweather cited data to suggest that the city is unlikely to get reprieve from pollution till 28 November.
But some BJP MPs, rather than addressing the situation, were busy by belting out songs, playing the blame game and indulging in whataboutery. Worse, others simply denied the gravity of the situation. While Parliament discussed air pollution in North India, including New Delhi for the second straight day, lawmakers seemed lackadaisical in the face of an impending public health emergency.
Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary told the Rajya Sabha on Friday that the Delhi government was "creating hype" on the issu due to "political reasons".
Responding to queries during Question Hour, he said, "It may be the failure of the state government. There are many reasons for rise in pollution. However, the state government is creating hype for political reasons."
He was also against 'blaming farmers' for the rise in pollution as stubble burning has contributed to "only three percent" of the overall air pollution in Delhi.
However, according to government pollution monitoring agency SAFAR, the share of stubble burning from the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana in Delhi's pollution rose to 44 percent on 1 November, the highest this year.
On Thursday too, the debate on pollution in Parliament went musical with a Union minister belting out a Bollywood number for clean air and a member echoing similar songs.
Union minister Babul Supriyo belted out a few lines of the popular Bollywood song Hawa ke sath sath, ghata ke sang sang to drive home the point that the government is taking steps for "cleaner" air. Supriyo, who is a playback singer, said the government is trying to clean up the air so that everyone can sing this song from the movie Seeta Aur Geeta.
The minister intervened in a discussion on "Air Pollution and Climate Change" when BJP's Sunita Duggal expressed concern over air pollution and remarked that in the coming days perhaps Bollywood would stop shooting song sequences in the backdrop of greenery and fresh air.
She mentioned two songs — 'Jab chali thandi hawa' and Pakistani singer Hassan Jahangir's 'Hawa hawa aye hawa' — while flagging concerns over deteriorating air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR). Duggal's concern: If the air remains polluted, how would Bollywood make such songs in the future?
The musical exchange in Parliament irked Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa. "They are asking us to eat carrots. Are we goats?" asked Bajwa.
He also referred to a recent tweet by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar that people should start their day by listening to music. "He knows that people's lungs are stuck now, throat is choked and eyes are not responding as tears are coming out. We are already facing the music," he said, asking, "Is this the way the government is tackling the pollution?"
"One is asking us to eat carrot. We are being considered as animals. Another is saying listen to music. Has anyone opened a music academy?" said Bajwa sarcastically.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Environment Javadekar claimed India would be able to reduce air pollution in less time than China, which took 15 years to bring AQI under control in its major cities. "It took Beijing 15 years (to fight air pollution). We will take less time," he said, referring to the air quality in Delhi.
Javadekar said India's green cover is increasing and five times more trees have been planted in the National Capital in place of trees being cut down for construction of the Delhi Metro. However, his claim is debatable as various reports have pointed out that the increase in cover despite burgeoning population can be attributed to the fact that India’s State Of Forest Report (ISFR) uses satellite images to identify forested area and it doesn't discriminate between natural forests, plantations, thickets of weeds such as juliflora and lantana, and longstanding commercial crops such as palm, coconut, coffee, or even sugarcane.
Meanwhile, news reports said that in 33 days between 20 October to 21 November (till 5 pm), the city's air was so toxic that, on average, each resident inhaled smoke equivalent to puffing about 340 cigarettes.
The air quality in Delhi was in the 'very poor' category on Friday, improving slightly from the 'severe' level a day ago.The overall air quality index (AQI) was 364 at 9.30 am.
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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2019 18:18:30 IST