Sunday, August 1, 2021

SC pulls up Centre, states over pollution in north India, says ‘time to punish officers’

New Delhi, November 6: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ripped into the Centre and the states of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana for failing to control air pollution in north India, especially the national capital.
The top court had on Tuesday registered a fresh case in connection with the air pollution in Delhi-NCR. The suo motu case has been titled “alarming rise in air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas”.
Coming down heavily on the Centre and the states, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that “No one will be spared if found violating rules and regulations”.
Justice Mishra observed that everyone knew stubble burning would happen this year as well and questioned why the Centre was not ready in advance to tackle the issue by providing the required machines to the farmers.
“It seems no steps were taken throughout the year,” the court said.
The apex court roasted the Punjab government for not tackling the stubble burning issue stating, “You have miserably failed in your duty.”
Stating that it wants immediate action to deal with stubble burning, the Supreme Court observed: “It seems that there is no coordination among the officers and the state government to deal with this situation.”
Accusing the Punjab government of failing to provide a roadmap, the top court said, “Time has come to punish officers”.
As the Punjab government’s representative, the Chief Secretary bore the wrath of the Supreme Court which directly told him that it was his failure.
“People are dying. 1800 is the level of pollution. Flights are diverted. You are proud of your achievement,” said the two-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta.
The court further said that Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi are entirely responsible for the current situation in north India.
“You want poor farmers to be punished. This is the way Punjab Haryana UP acting… You are responsible and entire Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi are responsible for this. Nobody bothered about the poor citizens of the country… We are going to haul up entire machinery,” Justice Mishra said.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had also lashed out at Attorney General KK Venugopal, who along with the Chief Secretaries of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana had said that 44 per cent of the polluting haze comes from stubble burning.
The court dismissed claims that it is impossible to control 200,000 farmers who burn stubble.
“If stubble burning is the only way then this is the end… Stubble burning has to be controlled and inability to do that will take the country back by 100 years,” the court said.
This season recorded the highest stubble burning incidents in the neighbouring states of Delhi.
A review of air pollution in north India by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Tuesday found that crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana still continues.
As the air quality index (AQI) crossed the emergency levels in the national capital earlier this week, the Supreme Court lashed out at the Centre and Delhi, Punjab and Haryana governments for doing nothing to control air pollution.
The apex court also questioned the capability of the Odd-Even road rationing scheme in combating air pollution. (Courtesy: TS)