Unconfirmed reports stated that cricketer and BJP leader Gambhir, whose name was among the Lok Sabha members summoned for the meeting, skipped the meeting as he is currently on a leisure trip to Indore. News18 could not independently verify the claim.
Delhi is choking & @GautamGambhir is busy enjoying in Indore.
The MP should come to Delhi and ATTEND MEETINGS on AIR POLLUTION which was cancelled because
❌MP's of Delhi
none of the officials SHOWED UP!#ShameOnGautamGambhir https://t.co/A1yDLyYZ7v pic.twitter.com/feowi4q5xX
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) November 15, 2019
The AAP’s allegations came after cricketer VVS Laxman tweeted photos of Gambhir at a local eatery in Indore.
Responding to the allegations, Gambhir said that his work will speak for himself as he took to Twitter to list out a slew of projects, in the field of garbage management, education and hygiene, being undertaken in his constituency.
On the issue of pollution, he said, “We are also in talks to install giant air purifiers with cutting-edge technology across the constituency, which will substantially reduce pollution. The pilot version will be installed within the next few weeks.”
Kabhi pohe se teekhe, kabhi jalebi se meethe ... wonderful start to the day in Indoor, where we had breakfast outdoor 😛 pic.twitter.com/DxIPtNqYi7 — VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) November 15, 2019
The meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee had to be cancelled at the last minute as most of the officials summoned did not turn up.
Three commissioners of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and secretary/joint secretary of the Ministry of Environment did not attend the meeting. DDA officials and municipal chairpersons also failed to turn up. A total of 21 Lok Sabha members and eight Rajya Sabha members were asked to attend the meet of which only four — chairperson Jagdambika Pal, Hasnain Masoodi, CR Patil and Sanjay Singh — turned up.
AAP leader Atishi said Gambhir had been notified about the week a week in advance, but had failed to turn up. "Very unfortunate that the Honourable MP couldn't make time," she said in a tweet.
A week is a long time in politics, but not for @GautamGambhir who clearly needs more time to get out of his primary commitment - cricket. He was notified of the Committee on Urban Devt meet on air pollution exactly one week ago. Very unfortunate that the Hon MP couldn't make time pic.twitter.com/aXs5RsN7qQ
— Atishi (@AtishiAAP) November 15, 2019
Union Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said he will launch a probe to look into the absence of the officials. “We will look into why people didn’t turn up. We are very concerned about the environment. We were the first ones to start a joint action plan — short-term, medium-term and long-term since 2015. There are challenges and we need to fight together. I’ve always said that joint cooperation is needed,” he said.
The BJP leader said he wasn’t aware of Friday’s meeting and urged leaders to not indulge in blame-game. “All five states – Haryana, Punjab Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan — need to come together. I was the one to bring in this concept. This is not a time to criticise each other. This issue should not be politicised,” said Javadekar.
“It is very important for officers to turn up to such meetings. Officers are bound to attend the Parliamentary Committee Meeting. AAP’s Sanjay singh was present at the meet,” said AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj.
The questions that the members were planning to raise included: As there are about 50 lakh cars on the roads in Delhi, is the government coming up with any sort of car-pool policy or regulation?
Another question was that as per estimates of the Union Government, the Centre provided Rs 1,150 crore to the states over the last year to combat air pollution, along with 14,000 machines. Does the government have a quantitative and qualitative utilisation report of the money disbursed?
The third question that was to be raised pertained to the Supreme Court's recent observation that everybody, ranging from the secretary to the gram pradhan, will be held responsible for losses due to air pollution. Does the government, in this regard, intend to define and fix responsibility through an internal mechanism?
The national capital is battling alarming levels of air pollution for the past few weeks. The air quality further deteriorated in the last four days, forcing authorities to shut schools for two days until Saturday.
Check out today's city-wise real time air quality index here.