Indian Supreme Court on Saturday recommended strategies to reduce pollution levels to both the Centre and the Delhi government, citing the excessive pollution in Delhi, where air quality remains in the “severe” category.
It also chastised the government over agricultural fires, pointing out that the technology available for stubble management is prohibitively expensive for poor and marginalized farmers.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice Surya Kant proposed enforcing a two-day lockdown in the national capital, citing the city’s air quality dropping even lower in the next two to three days.
According to data acquired by Hindustan Times from heat-sensing satellites, farm fire emissions reached a new high this year in the second week of November.
This year, there were 24,694 fire incidences, eclipsing the previous high of 16,931 incidents set in the same period in 2016.
On Saturday, the Supreme Court questioned the Delhi government’s decision to build smog towers, while also telling the Centre that blaming farmers when air pollution in the capital rises has “become a vogue.”
The case has been rescheduled for Monday.
Following are the top ten quotes from the SC bench following today’s hearing:
1. “Tell us how we can reduce AQI from 500 at least by 200 points. Take some urgent measures. Can you think of two days lockdown or something? How can people live? We will look at a long-term solution later.”
2. “You have to look at this issue beyond politics and government. Something must happen so that in two to three days we feel better.”
3. On Delhi government’s decision to install smog towers, the bench asked, “This is not the Centre’s but your jurisdiction. What is happening on that front?”
4. “Be the petitioners, the Delhi government, or anybody else — it has become a fashion to blame the farmers. Have you seen how crackers are being burnt in Delhi for the last seven days? What was the Delhi police doing?”
5. “You are saying two lakh machines are available, but the poor farmers cannot afford these machines. After the agrarian laws, the landholding in UP, Punjab, and Haryana are less than 3 acres. We can’t expect those farmers to purchase those machines.”
6. “Why can’t the Centre and the state governments provide the machines. Take away the stubble for use in paper mills and various other purposes. In winters the stubble can be used for fodder for goats, etc. in Rajasthan.”
7. After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the Centre is providing machinery at 80 per cent subsidized rate, the bench asked, “Can the farmer afford it. I am a farmer and I know it, the CJI is also from a farmer family he also knows it.”
8. “Problem is of incentivization. If you are not giving incentives to farmers for alternatives then things cannot change. Enforcement cannot happen just like that.”
9. “How do we ensure that stubble is removed, in time and taken to thermal power plant and then economic remuneration to farmers?”
10. “Schools have been opened now and little children are on the roads and we are exposing them to this. [AIIMS director] Dr [Randeep] Guleria said we are exposing them to pollution, pandemic, and dengue.”
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Information Source: Hindustan Times