Apex court asks Centre to convene emergency meet with NCR states on Tuesday; ready to impose complete lockdown, Delhi government tells SC.

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central government to call for an “emergency meeting” on 16 November with Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh and sought an action plan to curb the air pollution in Delhi-NCR. The Supreme Court also said that the Delhi government was making “lame excuses” for not taking emergency measures to tackle the deteriorating air quality in the national capital. The Delhi government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was ready to impose a complete lockdown in the city in order to check air pollution. The Delhi government also suggested to the apex court that it would be meaningful if lockdown is implemented across National Capital Region (NCR) areas in neighbouring states. Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Monday urged the Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments to impose a lockdown in NCR to curb the air pollution in Delhi-NCR and said that a joint-action plan is needed in the matter.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant concluded that the major culprits for air pollution in the national capital were construction activities, industries, power plants, and vehicular transportation apart from stubble burning in some areas. It said that the hue and cry over farmers stubble burning was without factual basis as according to Centre it contributed to less than 10% of the air pollution in Delhi.

The Bench directed the Centre that its committee, set up to look into air pollution issue, convene an emergency meeting with Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and take into account issues suggested by it like stopping construction, non-essential transport, power plants and implement work from home to deal with air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Posting the matter for hearing on 17 November, the top court asked the Haryana and Punjab governments to persuade farmers to stop stubble burning for a week. “The commission under the Act has not indicated what steps will be taken to control the pollution-causing elements. This is not the way we expected an executive emergency meeting will be held. It’s very unfortunate that we have to set an agenda for them. We direct the Centre to have an emergency meeting tomorrow and take into account points cited by us,” the Bench said.

Please decide which industries can be stopped, which vehicles can be prevented from plying and which power plants can be stopped and how you can provide alternative power by then, it told the Solicitor General.

During the hearing, the Solicitor General told the apex court that stubble burning was not the major cause of pollution at present in Delhi and northern states as it contributes only 10% of the pollution. Dust is a major cause of pollution now and dust control measures are taken at the construction site, Mehta said.

Meanwhile, a war of words broke out between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and BJP after the Supreme Court slammed the Delhi government for making “lame excuses” over Delhi air pollution.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is the “biggest pollution” in Delhi. “If there is any ‘biggest pollution’ category in Delhi, it is Arvind Kejriwal,” he said. “For the last seven years, Aam Aadmi Party only kept advertising. Till date, no action has been taken to fight pollution. Due to the failure of the Delhi government, people are forced to live in a gas chamber. If there is any ‘biggest pollution’ in Delhi, then it is only Arvind Kejriwal,” he said.

Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari demanded the resignation of the Delhi Chief Minister. He said, “Aam Aadmi Party government has become a symbol of misgovernance. On moral grounds, Kejriwal should resign from his post.”

In turn, the Aam Aadmi Party questioned some BJP-led states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana on the issue of air pollution. AAP leaders said that the party has taken some strong measures to control the consequences of air pollution. “Why do some states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, have pollution problems if stubble burning only causes 10% pollution? We have taken some strong measures to curb pollution, but the central government has not contributed to solve the problem. Our party has provided bio-decomposer sprays to deal with the problems of stubble burning and help the farmers to decompose the crop residue and turn it into manure,” AAP MLA Shiv Charan Goel told The Daily Guardian.

Similarly, another AAP MLA Kuldeep Kumar said, “Only one government cannot solve the problems of pollution.” Rather than engaging in political games, he asked BJP members to cooperate with the state government to tackle the problems of pollution. “Why do air pollution problems only develop during a specific season each year? Since the BJP has stated that it has invested money to assist farmers by providing machinery, the farmers must be trained how to use it,” he told this newspaper.

Ban on construction activities has affected some labourers severely. However, workers expect that the activities will resume soon. Although some contractors provide basic amenities, workers believe that their compensation will be adjusted in their salaries. AAP MLA Akhilesh Pati Tripathi said, “If the ban on the construction activities is for a longer duration, then the party will help out the labourers.”