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Under fire over Delhi pollution, Kejriwal says AAP govt in Punjab accepts onus

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal with Punjab CM Bhagwant Maan

Under fire over the toxic air quality in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said that the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab took responsibility for stubble burning and the pollution caused by it.

In a press conference along with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, he said that the AAP government would be able to control the crisis within a span of a year.

The press conference came a day after the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution jumped to 34 per cent, the highest this season so far, which experts said caused the thick layer of smog that was choking the national capital. People were facing difficulty in breathing and there was a sharp rise in respiratory diseases in Delhi.  Primary schools have been shut in the national capital and in adjoining Noida.

“Hopefully, by next year, we will take many harsh steps. We will align with farmers to reduce farm fires,” Kejriwal said.

On the possible measures to check pollution due to crop stubble burning in Punjab, he said that the AAP government would try to move farmers from rice to other crops.

He said that the issue should not be politicised and governments should avoid the blame game and mudslinging.

As pollution levels continue to rise, Delhi BJP President Adesh Gupta on Friday convened a presser and accused chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for being a “part time CM” who does not care for the people of the capital.

“Kejriwal does not have time for Delhi, as he keeps travelling to the rest of the country,” Gupta said as he showed the AQI levels today on his cellphone.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi on Friday said that the residents of Delhi-NCR are “choking due to hazardous air they are breathing.”

Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav has lambasted the Punjab government for not taking adequate measures to control farm fires in the state even as Delhi-NCR is choking due to the high level of pollution.

The minister had pointed on Wednesday “As of today, Punjab, a state run by the AAP government, has seen an over 19% rise in farm fires over 2021. Haryana has seen a 30.6% drop. Just today, Punjab saw 3,634 fires. There is no doubt over who has turned Delhi into a gas chamber.”

The minister said that in the last 5 years, the Central Government gave Rs 1,347 crore for crop residue management machines to Punjab. The state bought 1,20,000 machines out of which 11,275 have gone missing.

He has also highlighted that last year, Rs 212 crore meant for taking measures to help farmers reduce stubble burning, were left unspent which shows incompetence in the utilisation of funds by the Punjab government.

“This year, the Central Govt gave Punjab Rs 280 crore for crop residue management machines. So about Rs 492 crore was available but the state govt chose to sit with the funds forcing helpless farmers to burn the crop residue,” Yadav pointed out.

The minister further said that the Chief Minister of Punjab has failed to even provide relief to farmers in his own turf of Sangrur. Reeling out figures he said, “Last year (Sept 15-Nov 2) farm fires in Sangrur stood at 1,266. This year they have shot up by 139% rising to 3,025.”

The minister’s statement exposing the Punjab government came at a time when the AAP government had started a blame game over the pollution in Delhi-NCR and tried to shift the blame to the Centre.