Supreme Court criticizes top officials from north India for air pollution problem

Supreme Court criticizes top officials from north India for air pollution problem
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Top officials of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were criticized by the Supreme Court for their failure to control the serious air pollution problem that has gripped most of north Indian states.

New Delhi: Top officials of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were criticized by the Supreme Court for their failure to control the serious air pollution problem that has gripped most of north Indian states.

The court said the officials failed to plan ahead or take action and put the blame instead, all on farmers. "The time has come to punish officers," the court said.

The Chief Secretaries of states were most criticized especially on the Chief Secretary of Punjab, who was told that it was his failure.

"Is this way? We will suspend from here. Why are you the Chief Secretary of Punjab? It is your failure," the court said in a hearing that continued even after the closing hours.

The two-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said,

"People are dying. 1800 is the level of pollution. Flights are diverted. You are proud of your achievement," while hearing the plea of pollution control body Environment Pollution Control Authority or EPCA against stubble burning.

Delhi and its neighbouring areas are facing troubled times primarily due to the smoke from the stubble burnt on the farmlands of Punjab and Haryana.This year, the pollution menace has spread over much of north India.

The court on Monday ordered Punjab and Haryana governments to extinguish stubble fires. Despite that, a record 7000 fires were detected on Wednesday by SAFAR, the Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor. Most of them were found in Punjab.

Emphasizing that government is more responsible than farmers who are being challaned in Haryana for stubble burning, the court said "You want poor farmers to be punished. Punishment of farmers is not a solution".

"You are responsible and entire Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi are responsible for this. Nobody bothered about the poor citizens of the country.... We are going to haul up entire machinery," Justice Mishra said.

Earlier, the court had reprimanded the Attorney General as well. Attorney General KK Venugopal had said 44 per cent of the polluting haze in north India comes from stubble burning. The court rejected his statements saying it is not possible to control 200,000 farmers who burn stubble. "If stubble burning is the only way then this is the end... Stubble burning has to be controlled and inability to do that will take the country back by 100 years. Farmers say it will affect livelihood and they have no other way. If Haryana can control it (stubble burning) , why not Punjab? Nobody tried organic means," said the court in final statements.

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