Gautam Gambhir, top officials skip key parliamentary meet on Delhi air pollution; ex-cricketer says 'work will speak for itself' after criticism

  • Top officials stayed away from a key meeting of a parliamentary panel held today

  • The National Capital has been battling alarming levels of air pollution for the past few weeks

  • The air quality further deteriorated in the last four days, forcing authorities to shut schools for two days

Only four MPs of a 28-member parliamentary panel attended a key meeting to discuss the air pollution crisis in Delhi-NCR on Friday, with the absentees including East Delhi parliamentarian Gautam Gambhir. Top officials of the environment ministry, DDA and municipal commissioners also stayed away from the deliberations.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development had called the meeting with top officials of various government departments to discuss the air pollution in Delhi and the measures required to reduce it.

As many as 24 MPs from various parties did not attend the meeting, but the absence of Gambhir, the lone BJP leader from Delhi in the committee, snowballed into a political row as the AAP hit out at the saffron party over the issue and questioned its seriousness in tackling the crisis.

 Gautam Gambhir, top officials skip key parliamentary meet on Delhi air pollution; ex-cricketer says work will speak for itself after criticism

File image of Gautam Gambhir. AFP

Cricketer-turned-politician Gambhir has been vocal about the alarming levels of air pollution in Delhi and has called for measures to curb the menace. He was seen commentating on television on Friday in Indore, where a test match between India and Bangladesh is going on.

As many as 24 parliamentarians from various parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, did not attend the meeting. Hitting out at Gambhir, the Aam Aadmi Party, in a tweet, said while MPs like him were busy enjoying, AAP's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh attended the meeting. "Gautam Gambhir, is this the level of your seriousness regarding air pollution?" the Arvind Kejriwal-led party questioned.

In a statement, Gambhir said his work spoke for him, adding that if by abusing him, Delhi's pollution levels came down, then the AAP was free to do so.

Besides Singh, the three other MPs who attended the meeting were BJP's Jagdambika Pal who heads the panel, CR Patil of the saffron party and Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference. According to sources, the members of the panel who attended the meeting were extremely upset with the absence of the environment secretary, the DDA chairman and officials of the three municipal corporations of the national capital and planning to raise the issue with the Lok Sabha Speaker.

The members told junior officials to convey to their seniors that they should have attended the meeting, the sources said. Asked about the absence of his ministry officials from the meeting, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said he would find out the details and investigate. "We are always very serious about pollution. I have emphasised that pollution is not only Delhi's problem. I have ordered a joint action plan. Teams are working with coordination," he said.

An official spokesperson said the environment ministry was represented at the meeting by the deputy secretary and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials, adding that the joint secretary could not attend it as she was to appear in an important matter in Supreme Court. The spokesperson also said detailed notes were submitted to the urban development ministry.

One of the questions the panel members were planning to raise was: As there are about 50 lakh cars on the roads of Delhi, is the government coming up with any sort of car pool policy or regulation? Another question was that according to the Union government, Rs 1,150 crore were given by the Centre to the states in the last one year to combat air pollution, along with 14,000 machines and does the government have a quantitative and qualitative utilisation report of the money disbursed?

The third question to be raised pertained to the Supreme Court's recent observation that everybody, ranging from the secretary to the gram pradhan, will be held responsible for the losses due to air pollution and does the government, in this regard, intend to define and fix responsibility through an internal mechanism? The national capital is battling alarming levels of air pollution for the past few weeks. The air quality deteriorated further in the last four days, forcing the authorities to  shut schools for two days.

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Updated Date: Nov 15, 2019 19:19:58 IST