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Governance up in smokes, Delhi chokes

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By Sidharth Mishra

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal with party colleague and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann has finally said that heavy pollution in Delhi is due to stubble burning in Punjab. They went onto add that the situation became grim as their government in Punjab was just six months old and that they needed time to overcome the challenge.

\That Mr Kejriwal had ever cared he could have learnt from the columns of this newspaper as far back as July this year about the emerging situation. This year, as had been promised by Kejriwal last year, the stubble decomposition capsules developed at Pusa Institute in Delhi was to wonders.

It works like this that four Pusa capsules have to be dissolved in water to make a 25-litre solution, which is enough to spray on one hectare of land. After the solution is sprayed, it takes about 20 to 25 days for the crop remnants to decompose. The crisis now reveals that while Punjab used the capsules in just a few thousand acres, the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have brought down the incidents of stubble burning by using this solution in the lakhs of acres. 

The monitoring bodies have reported that in comparison to stubble fire incidents of several thousands in Punjab, it was down to a mere few hundreds in Haryana and UP. Governance is secondary for Kejriwal and he cowed down to accept negligence only after Delhi was turned into an absolute gas chamber with irrefutable evidences that it was happening because of unabated stubble fire from Punjab.

That governance always takes seat far behind politics for the Aam Aadmi Party was best evident that a day before he accepted Punjab’s role in spreading smog, Kejriwal held the event of conducting free yoga classes in the open with poisonous air floating around the national Capital. The event was held for shutterbugs to score a political point against the Lieutenant Governor who had disallowed the ‘freebie’.

However, by just declaring that they have failed, can the Aam Aadmi Party functionaries wash their hands of governing Delhi? Like past years, in a knee jerk move, schools have closed, lakh of cars up to BS II (for both petrol and diesel) and up to BS IV (for diesel) removed from roads, construction works have stopped but these measures come without a thought and no backup plans.

It’s like a feeling of déjà vu. Like previous years, this year too, the Supreme Court (SC) has raised the red flag on pollution and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has initiated emergency provisions. This happens almost every year. Why does it always take the Supreme Court to use the whiplash to make governments wake up in the matters of life and death? The matter this year is scheduled to be heard on November 10, by when, hopefully, the worst would be over.

And now about the practicality and effectiveness of the measures. Does closing of the schools help improve air quality? When the markets will remain open, when the workshops and factories will continue to function, when the cinema halls will continue with their regular shows, how does the closing of the schools help?

Pollution can be fought if the government has the desire and the will to take suitable measures to curb pollution. The situation in Delhi turns poisonous with stubble burning even as there is a ban on stubble burning. The Punjab government has to show the will and have the wherewithal to implement the ban.

Pollution doesn’t get controlled by doing antics like giving slogan ‘Yudh: Pradushan Ke Virudh (war against pollution).’ More than slogans, action would work.

(The writer is an author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice)


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