Can't Do A 'Surgical Strike' On Air Pollution, Says Minister Harsh Vardhan

Union minister Harsh Vardhan has also ruled out allocation of funds to Punjab and Haryana to help farmers stop stubble burning, one of the key causes of the huge pollution spike in Delhi

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Can't Do A 'Surgical Strike' On Air Pollution, Says Minister Harsh Vardhan

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Union minister Harsh Vardhan said states have to find a solution to Delhi's choking smog.

Panaji:  Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan today rebutted the allegations of the Delhi government that the Centre had been aloof about the smog that has been choking the national capital, saying one cannot launch "surgical strikes" against pollution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, has been monitoring the situation but insisted that a solution has to be found by the states.

Ruling out more the allocation of funds to Punjab and Haryana to stop stubble burning by farmers - one of the key causes of the huge pollution spike - Mr Vardhan said the matter is the responsibility of the states and they cannot "take it casually".  

"Now the states are getting much, much more funds... it is not fair for the states to pass the buck," the minister said. The reference was to the stance of Punjab's Congress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who insists that his government lacks the funds to offer farmers any alternative to stubble burning or an incentive to stop it.

Today, Gopal Rai, the convenor of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party's Delhi unit, had questioned why the Centre was "mum over this problem" and accused Mr Vardhan of being "missing" in the hours of crisis. "The BJP and the Congress are projecting the crisis in a way that the Delhi government is doing nothing. We appeal to both these parties that Delhi government wants to work keeping all its political differences aside," Mr Rai was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.

Mr Vardhan, who was in Panaji to attend a conference, told NDTV that the Centre was not "failing or lacking".  "The Centre can only formulate policy," he said, adding that the officials of the Prime Minister's office had held a meeting even today.

The minister also criticized Delhi government's attempt to counter pollution by a re-launch of the Odd-Even road rationing scheme, which would come into effect next week. Under the scheme, vehicles with license plates ending in odd and even numbers are allowed to ply on alternate days. The government had claimed it helps cut down vehicular pollution almost by half.  

Calling Odd-Even an example of inflicting "one suffering to alleviate another", Mr Vardhan asked what "scientific backing" for the scheme.

The Odd-Even scheme, which was implemented twice last year, had drawn criticism after Delhi'ites faced great inconvenience due to the poor public transport facilities. A section of scientists had said it had resulted only in a marginal drop in pollution and the Central Pollution Control Board had told the National Green Tribunal that prima facie, there was "no data to suggest that odd-even scheme has any impact on decrease in vehicular pollution".

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