26 Nov, 2019
India’s Supreme Court said New Delhi’s staggeringly poor air quality was akin to a “gas chamber” which “suffocates” residents, and slammed both city authorities as well as local farmers for their inaction on the crisis.
With air quality in India’s capital city deteriorating year after year, in a hearing on Monday the Supreme Court said living there was now “worse than Narak [hell],” and demanded to know why authorities weren’t doing more to address the issue.
“In the capital of the country, if you will create this kind of situation, how will the people survive? How will the country become a global superpower if you are not able to check these things?” court justices asked, singling out the Chief Secretary to the state of Punjab, Shri Karan Avtar Singh.
Time has gone where we will keep on waiting. Why this is continuously happening?
The court warned that farmers across the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were continuing the practice of “stubble burning,” or setting fire to the remains of crops after harvest to prepare for the next season. While the process is cheaper than other methods, such as weeding out the stubble by hand, it contributes greatly to India’s air pollution and is currently banned by law.
“Should this be tolerated? Is this not worse than internal war?” the justices asked.
Why are people in this gas chamber? If it is so, then you better finish them with explosives. If it goes on like this then it would be better to go rather than suffer from diseases like cancer.
While the Chief Secretary of Haryana state, Anand Arora, argued his region had cut stubble burning by some 65 percent, the judges accused him of lying to the court, arguing “we have seen the satellite pictures” showing that the burning continues unabated.
The bench also accused the local authorities of playing a “blame game,” stating “You are politicizing the issue of pollution. You cannot let people die like this,” and that “People outside are laughing at this country, that we are not able to deal with this.”
After the dressing down, the justices ultimately tasked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta with devising a plan to build anti-smog towers in New Delhi and the broader National Capital Region, stating the technology was already available and that the current problem was merely a “lack of willpower.”