New Delhi continued to reel under smoggy conditions on Monday as a thick haze reduced visibility and air quality remained at "hazardous" levels. The concentration of particulate matter was recorded at over seven-times the norm even as primary schools were set to reopen.
The Aam Aadmi Party government had said that they will file a review petition in front of the National Green Tribunal over the odd-even policy, however, the NGT on Monday told media outlets that the Delhi government had not filed any review petition on the policy. The review plea was to be filed against the earlier order to implement odd and even without any exemption.
Refuting media reports, sources in the Delhi government say that a review petition is going to be filed later in the day. Naginder Sharma, media advisor to the Chief Minister of Delhi told Firstpost that a review petition will be filed in the NGT today. "It has already been decided to file a review petition and it will be done," he said.
There were speculations that the Delhi government may not file a review petition against the NGT order as a separate petition filed by a citizen is up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon. "The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a petition filed by advocate RK Kapoor which seeks immediate measures to check the rising pollution in Delhi and it’s surrounding areas, which has become an international headline for a week now," reports said.
Reports also said, "There was no lawyer from the Delhi government’s side present at the hearing that the latter had itself requested. This forced the NGT to wonder if all the objections raised by the AAP are for grandstanding before the media." Sharma added that despite the case, which is to be heard in the Supreme Court, the review petition will be filed in NGT.
"We know that a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by a citizen. We are still going to ask NGT to review the existing plea," he said. Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who was arguing against the Delhi government in the earlier case related to odd-even told Firstpost that the Delhi government still has time to file a review petition.
"The government can file a review petition anytime within 30 days after the order. They can also file it later in the day," he said. Ashok Agarwal, another advocate with the Supreme Court told Firstpost that there is no legal bar on the government in filing a review petition in the NGT even if a similar petition is being heard in the Supreme Court.
“The original jurisdiction on environment related matters lies with the NGT, so there is no bar in government filing a review petition in the NGT,” Agarwal said. The review petition co-incided with the re-opening of schools in the city amid hazardous levels of air pollution.
The Delhi government had decided to shut down schools for five days after the air quality index reached severe levels. But parents say that the move hardly bore any fruit as the government had to reopen them with the same levels of air pollution. “The decision to shut schools was implemented partially as many private schools remained open. At the same time, the government reopened them when the air quality index is the same when it was at the time of shutting schools. It is difficult to say what the outcome of this exercise was,” says Saransh Sharma who is a parent of a school-going child at a Delhi government school.
The question which everyone is now asking, is what the Arvind Kejriwal government is planning to do now that the government's odd-even plan is in limbo.
Earlier, sources in the Delhi government had told Firstpost that the main submission of the Delhi government in NGT on Monday will be about the problems the odd-even is going to cause if implemented without any exemption. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s media advisor Arunodoy Prakash said that Delhi’s present public transport system cannot bear the gargantuan load of additional commuters that lack of exemption to two-wheelers would cause.
"More than 32 lakh people travel by bikes everyday in Delhi. If they are not exempted from odd-even scheme, they may shift to public transportation. Delhi’s public transportation cannot take that load. We need to exempt them from odd-even scheme," Prakash added.
According to a report in The Times of India, more than 32 lakhs people commute by bus everyday. The report also says that the capital city needs more than 10,000 buses to meet it’s present demand. More than 26 lakh commuters use the metro rail. Adding another wave of commuters may result in collapse of public transportation system.
The AAP government also said that exemptions are also crucial for women's safety.
Speaking to Firstpost regarding the matter, AAP MLA Anil Bajpai said, "We cannot compromise on the issue of women’s safety. If odd even is allowed without any exemption, than women’s safety might be at risk."
The NGT has been criticising the Delhi government for poor preparedness as the city struggled to breathe. The smog situation in the National Capital has been deteriorating for almost past one week. The NGT on Saturday rapped the government for attempting to implement odd-even with large number of exemptions provided to various groups of people, including bikers. The Delhi High Court too ordered the government to implement the scheme without any exemption.
Soon after the order, the government rolled back it’s decision to implement the policy and said that the socio-economic costs of enforcing it without exemption will be too high for Delhi to bear.
Incidentally, implementing odd-even is probably the only option left with the Delhi's AAP government to control the severe air pollution. The other measures would mean involvement of neighbouring states and their respective governments.
Updated Date: Nov 13, 2017 14:12 PM