Kejriwal un­der fire as smog in Delhi reaches ‘se­vere’ lev­els on AQI

Business Standard - - OPINION -

As pol­lu­tion in New Delhi hit "se­vere" lev­els on the air quality in­dex on Satur­day, Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Kejriwal came un­der fire fol­low­ing re­ports he had left the city for an over­seas fam­ily trip. For the sec­ond year, Kejriwal has likened Delhi to a "gas cham­ber".

Sea­sonal burn­ing of crop stub­ble in neigh­bour­ing states and fire­works dur­ing Di­wali on November 7 have ag­gra­vated smog lev­els over the past few days, which were al­ready high from ve­hi­cle emis­sions, in­dus­trial gases and con­struc­tion work.

Lo­cal news chan­nels said Kejriwal had left the coun­try on a pri­vate fam­ily trip to Dubai, trig­ger­ing back­lash on so­cial me­dia and fin­ger-point­ing on Twit­ter by the BJP's Delhi unit.

"Arvind Kejriwal cares about his fam­ily so much that he ur­gently booked tick­ets and ran away to Dubai with them as soon as Delhi started chok­ing with pol­lu­tion," read one tweet.

A mem­ber of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) told Reuters the chief min­is­ter was not in the city. He de­clined to elab­o­rate or be iden­ti­fied as he is not au­tho­rised to speak to the me­dia. A govern­ment spokesman did not re­spond to calls seek­ing comment.

En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists say res­i­dents need to be more vo­cal about hold­ing po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ac­count­able over pol­lu­tion.

"Pub­lic pressure has to be much sharper and should de­mand com­pli­ance. Di­rec­tions, poli­cies have been is­sued but strin­gent im­ple­men­ta­tion is needed," said An­u­mita Roy­chowd­hury, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment, a think-tank.

Still, there is lit­tle sign in Delhi that res­i­dents are do­ing much to pro­tect them­selves from the smog. Ac­tivists say the ap­par­ent lack of con­cern about the pol­lu­tion gives politi­cians the cover they need for fail­ing to ad­dress the prob­lem.

The En­vi­ron­ment Pol­lu­tion (Preven­tion and Con­trol) Author­ity had banned all con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity and or­dered the use of sprin­klers un­til Satur­day, among other mea­sures. On Satur­day, it in­di­cated the mea­sures would be extended till Mon­day.

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