Arvind Kejriwal has blamed the Haryana and Punjab governments for rising pollution levels in Delhi and urged school students to write to “Captain uncle and Khattar uncle”, referring to Captain Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, respectively. “Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, ‘Please think about our health’,” Mr Kejriwal told children today, while distributing breathing masks.
Arvind Kejriwal, who has been criticised by the Congress and the BJP for failing to control the problem, today described the national capital as a “gas chamber”. The Delhi government has purchased 50 lakh N95 masks to be given to children in private and government schools.
“The Khattar and Captain governments are forcing farmers to burn stubble, which is causing severe pollution in Delhi. Yesterday, people protested at Punjab and Haryana Bhavan and expressed their anger against governments there,” Arvind Kejriwal wrote.
“People are facing difficulty in breathing and to provide relief, we’re distributing 2 masks to each student in private & govt schools,” he said. On Tuesday Mr Kejriwal had appealed “with folded hands” to Punjab and Haryana to take concrete steps against stubble burning.
Air quality in Delhi has plummeted post-Diwali, which Chief Minister Kejriwal said was the “lowest in five years”. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded 412 this morning, which falls in the “very severe” category.
According to the data, the contribution of stubble burning to the haze and air pollution in Delhi-NCR was 35 per cent on Wednesday, 24 per cent on Thursday and is likely to be 25 per cent today. In addition, according to SAFAR data available on Wednesday, the number of stubble burning fires had doubled over the past 48 hours – from 1,200 to 2,700.
“Smoke from crop fires have affected us earlier this time… we can’t help crop fires from neighbouring areas. (We have) adequate quantity of masks… we shall begin distributing them. We are working hard to curb pollution,” Mr Kejriwal told reporters on Wednesday.
On the same day Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, hit back at the “brazen lies” of Mr Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Describing Mr Kejriwal as a “liar”, the Punjab Chief Minister accused him of resorting to “political gimmickry” after failing to address the pollution problem in Delhi over the past five years.
For its part, the centre has provided between 50 and 80 per cent subsidy to farmers to purchase essential technology and machinery to help convert waste agricultural matter like straw into fertiliser instead of burning it and adding to the pollution.
However, farmers say that despite the subsidies the machinery is very expensive.
“It our compulsion to burn the stubble in our field (since) the machinery provided by the government is very expensive and we cannot afford it,” Harjit Singh, a farmer in Punjab, told NDTV.