Smog woes: NGT slams Delhi govt, rejects exemptions for motorcyclists and women
The Odd-Even scheme for rationing of cars which was scheduled to start from Monday, November 13, seems to be off the table as of now. The Delhi government was forced to withdraw its appeal for modifications in the odd-even scheme that they made before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The NGT came down heavily on the Delhi government, saying that they must not come up with “Illogical” explanations for odd-even exemptions the next time they approach NGT.
The Delhi government had called off the odd-even scheme on Saturday after the NGT gave the go-ahead for the same, but without any exemptions for anyone including women drivers, motorcyclists and VIPs.
The Delhi government filed an appeal on Monday maintaining that exemptions must be made for motorcyclists and women as the government was not equipped to handle the surge in public transport users if two-wheelers were off the road. In case of women, the government argued that many didn't feel safe in public transport, especially those who had to work at odd hours.
NGT called the appeal “illogical” and said that the government “didn’t seem serious about the environment.” “Are you really serious about the environment? Why should anyone be exempt from the Odd-Even plan?”
The NGT quoted Central Pollution Control Board figures, saying, “Over a third of the pollution in Delhi is because of two-wheelers. Then where is the question of exemption? If two-wheelers are causing pollution then there is no business of exemption. When reports have stated that two-wheelers are more polluting than four-wheelers, why do you intend to give arbitrary exemptions? Is this a joke? What does one stand to gain from this?”
NGT also asked the Delhi government why it can’t run ‘ladies only’ buses and metros to solve the problem of transport for women when the odd-even scheme is in operation.
The NGT also told the Delhi government, “Don’t gift infected lungs to children. They have to wear masks to school. What constitutes a health emergency according to you? Measures should be applied automatically by the government after dangerous levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 persists for more than 48 hours.”
The NGT further questioned the Delhi government’s inaction and said, “Why don't you act upon those who are responsible for pollution. How many people have you penalised so far?”
Additionally, the tribunal also asked the government to choose a spot in the city and sprinkle water from a helicopter to find out whether it is effective in reducing air pollution.
Delhi government officials have told Catch that they are committed to the safety of women. An official told Catch, “If there are incidents of violence or harassment against women or a stampede in a metro or a bus station during the odd-even scheme, who will people blame, the Delhi govt or the NGT? These are issues that one has to keep in mind. There will be a meeting convened to decide the next course of action.”
Meanwhile, Delhi government officials say Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has been following up with Punjab and Haryana CMs regarding the smog issue. “Collective efforts are needed to resolve this grave issue.” Kejriwal has asked Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to join the meeting with Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday in Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, the air quality in Delhi-NCR was back to ‘severe’ category on Monday — for the second time in past six days, just as schools in the national capital reopened after remaining closed since Thursday due to ‘severe’ air pollution levels.
However, air quality may improve in the coming days as light rains are expected on Wednesday.