Amid the row over the ban on firecrackers, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Sunday said saving people’s lives, not politics, is the priority of the Delhi government.
A day before Diwali, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi has been around 250, which is the poor category. Experts said there is a possibility that it may become more dangerous on the evening of Diwali.
Mr Rai has appealed to the people of Delhi not to light firecrackers.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Rai said, “The level of pollution increases every year in winter. We celebrate Diwali every year. This Diwali, we appeal to all Delhiites to help in curbing the pollution. Try not to burst crackers. There is an appeal especially to the youth to take a pledge to stop pollution in their city.”
On criticism against the ban on firecrackers, the minister said, “I do not want to say anything on politics. Those who want to do politics can do so. Saving people’s lives is our priority. Some people had also gone to the Supreme Court regarding this matter, and after the decision of the court, now there is no scope of debate left in this matter. When our ancestors celebrated Diwali, there were no firecrackers as then firecrackers were not produced. The priority of every religion is to save the lives of the people.”
Mr Rai said that the government’s focus is to make people aware.
He further raised concerns over the incidents of stubble burning reported around Delhi. Rai said that the incidents of stubble burning are expected to increase after Diwali. “In Delhi, we are spraying bio decomposers in the fields. But apart from Delhi, stubble burning is also done in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. Efforts are being made to stop it,” he added.
There is a possibility of a rapid increase in the AQI of Delhi after Diwali. In view of this, Rai said “Work is being done on GRAP-1 and GRAP-2. According to the direction of the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas (CAQM), we have alerted all the departments.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held a protest after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government not just banned crackers but imposed fines and jail sentences for bursting crackers in Delhi.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Rai said that the Delhi government banned the production, storage, sale, and bursting of crackers this year as well with fines and jail terms in case of violation.
While addressing a press conference, Mr Rai said “This year as well, there is a ban on production, sale, storage and bursting of crackers. Sale or storage of firecrackers in Delhi can be punished with a fine of ₹ 5,000 and/or imprisonment for three years.”
The minister further said that strict action will be taken against those bursting crackers before Diwali.
“Strict action will be taken against those who burst crackers till Diwali. Under section 268 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), there is a provision of a fine of ₹ 200 and/or jail for 6 months against those who burst crackers,” he further said.