The centre is spreading lies, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told NDTV today while defending his government against allegations it wasted Rs 1,500 crore on ads instead of helping farmers eliminate the need for stubble burning that has contributed to the city's air pollution crisis. "I heard Prakash Javadekarji (Union Environment Minister) said we spent Rs 1,500 crore on ads... in this financial year Delhi government has spent only Rs 40 crore... on awareness about dengue so that not one person has died this year. The centre lies so much we cannot believe anything they say," Mr Kejriwal asserted.
Air pollution levels in Delhi skyrocketed over the weekend with sensors across the national capital recording Air Quality Indexes (AQIs) of 999 on Sunday morning; anything above 500 is considered extremely harmful to health. Mr Kejriwal, who called the city a "gas chamber", has repeatedly blamed polluted air from illegal farm fires in Punjab and Haryana for the crisis.
"From February to October 15 there was no pollution... the sky was blue and clear. What happened in 20 days? Crores of vehicles did not enter Delhi or lakhs of industries weren't opened. In these 20 days stubble burning from nearby states has polluted Delhi's air," Mr Kejriwal told NDTV.
In an attempt to control rising pollution levels the AAP government has reintroduced the 'odd-even' road rationing scheme from today and Mr Kejriwal said early signs were good.
"People are cooperating... maybe three or four challans issued today. People believe the Delhi government is trying to do something about the pollution," he said, adding, "Normally 30 lakh vehicles are on the road. During 'odd-even' only 15 lakh are there. At least some pollution will be cut".
He also pointed to the distribution of breathing masks, the laser show at Delhi's Connaught Place, increased forest cover and improved power supply leading to the elimination of six lakh diesel generators as further signs his administration is doing its bit.
The larger debate on Delhi's air pollution crisis, Mr Kejriwal said had to focus on a united effort by state and central governments to tackle stubble burning in the northern states.
Both the Chief Minister and his deputy, Manish Sisodia, have said the centre needs to do more in this regard, pointing out that it has only provided 63,000 machines for 27 lakh farmers.
"This will take 30 years. I have to say, enough is enough. We need to sit and make a timeline... that by November a number of machines will be allotted... by the month of December... and January. We need to close this within a year," he stressed.
"Don't play politics with pollution... you can play it with everything else. Pollution affects children and families," Mr Kejriwal said in conclusion, urging the centre and all affected states in North India to sit down and discuss a timeline to eliminate the problem.
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