Delhi air pollution: As personal ambition and Centre-state politicking become priority, National Capital finds itself deep in crisis

In the introduction of his book Convenient Action:Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change, Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister quoted from the Atharva Veda: "We aspire to live long, our children too would live long and be free from sickness and consumption. We all re reared up in the lap of Mother Earth. May we have long life (provided) we are watchful and alert and sacrifice our all for her (Mother Earth)."

He added, “Climate change is definitely affecting the future generations, which as of now, has no voice on the actions of present generations. A UN report has termed it as 'unsustainable ecological debt' which our generation is running up for future generations.”

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters

That was in 2011. Modi is now prime minister and as such, rules India from New Delhi.

In a chapter titled 'Reducing Urban Warming' Modi talked at length how he reduced air pollution in Ahmedabad from the time he took the reins in 2002. He said as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data of 2001, Ahmedabad was fourth highest in the list of Indian cities when it came to the level of annual average concentration of RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter).

Modi said that though various measures, he was able put a cap on pollution. In 2007, of 85 cities measured for RSPM, Ahmedabad ranked 53. In 2008, the city dropped to number 66 of 90 cities examined by the CPCB.

So far, Delhi residents—and the rest of the country for that matter—have heard little to practically nothing from the prime minister on the killer smog that envelops the capital and National Capital Region (NCR).

One does not know how much time the prime minister has to spare to tackle this problem which severely impacts life and living conditions of millions of people and those visiting the capital for business or pleasure. However, it is certainly time Modi turns his attention to this issue and lets it be known how he intends to find a long-term solution.

The BJP has always fancied Delhi as an international city and aspired to see the capital at par with the other great cities of the world in terms of infrastructure and living conditions.

Brand Modi is about a big vision, mega projects and time-bound implementation of ideas conceived. Delhi is in dire need of Modi's attention and this needs to be done as quickly as possible, with the minimum amount of dust is raised and minimal traffic congestion.

Surely, the Centre can intervene and call a meeting of concerned states to discuss crop burning by farmers and other issues which choke Delhi. Even as Modi is seen and accepted as a dominant world leader, Delhi's standing in the world has declined, which should concern both Modi and the BJP.

The same goes for Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who portrayed himself as the solution to Delhi's woes.

But Kejriwal occupied himself with Modi bashing, fighting the Lieutenant Governor, court cases and spending most of his time in the other parts of the country campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party.

Catering to personal ambition and too much politicking became a priority. Governance took a back seat. In fact, late last year and early this year, ahead of Punjab and Goa Assembly election, Kejriwal practically abandoned Delhi. However, the results of the Punjab, Goa and Delhi municipal elections had a sobering effect on him.

The only solution which he could conceive to contain air pollution was the implementation of the odd-even rule for motorists. The first implementation of the scheme won him plaudits both nationally and around the world. Kejriwal basked in that glory for some time. The second edition of the odd-even rule was neither a failure nor a success.

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty Images

Now, when has tried to implement the odd-even rule for the third time, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked some tough questions to Delhi government and taken serious note on exceptions given to women driving cars and two-wheelers.

Kejriwal’s other measure, to effect a four-fold hike in parking charges for motorists is equally questionable, even farcical. Such a massive parking charge is an impulsive decision to raise revenue for the government and benefit contractors, not a measure to discourage use of private motor vehicles, two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

When Delhiites gave all seven seats to BJP in May 2014 parliamentary election to see Modi as prime minister and in February 2015, gave 67 out of 70 seats to the AAP to see Kejriwal as chief minister, they hoped all their problems would be solved and that Delhi would become India's best place to live and work. But they've been severely disappointed.

It should be noted that Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan is an MP from Delhi.

Vardhan was the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for the December 2013 election and a very outspoken Leader of Opposition in the subsequent Delhi Assembly.

His ministry hasn't taken any substantive measures to tackle the smog situation or the potential health hazards either.

The key question: Can political leadership at Centre and Delhi government set aside their political differences and unite on an issue which affects millions of people and impacts the capital's image around the world?


Updated Date: Nov 15, 2017 07:40 AM

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