Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena has urged Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to take "urgent and substantive" measures to control stubble burning in the state that has converted the national capital "into a gas chamber".
In response, Mann accused Saxena of stopping the work of Delhi's elected government and said the Lieutenant Governor was politicising the issue.
In a communication to Mann, Saxena said it was "baffling" that instead of addressing the issue at hand, "certain elements are indulging in unjustifiable blame games and excuses and trying to shirk responsibilities, even in the face of a serious crisis situation".
Saxena said, on behalf of Delhi and its residents, he was urging Mann to galvanise all available resources and machinery to make the farmers become willing partners in defeating the "repetitive menace".
"...request you to undertake urgent and substantive measures to control Parali burning in Punjab that has converted the National Capital once again into a gas chamber.
"It is public knowledge that air pollution in Delhi has reached extremely dangerous levels, hovering consistently in the 'severe plus' category due to smoke, 95 per cent of which is originating from Parali burning in Punjab," Saxena said in his letter.
The Lieutenant Governor cited data that said stubble burning had spiked 19 per cent between October 24 and November 2 from the corresponding period in 2021. He noted that the "authentic data" presented an alarming picture.
"... contrary to expectations, incidents of Parali burning have increased by a whopping 19 per cent in the period between October 24 to November 2 as compared to the corresponding period in 2021. Authentic data on Parali burning presents an alarming picture. The figures for 2021 and 2022, for the same period stand at 18,066 and 21,480, respectively," he said.
On November 2, of the total 3,825 cases of Parali burning in six states -- Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan -- Punjab singularly reported 3,634 cases while Delhi reported zero, Saxena said in the letter.
"The resultant situation... has led to (a) health emergency in Delhi and the NCR, wherein OPD (out-patient department) visits and hospitalisations related to pulmonary discomfort/disorders has reportedly witnessed a manifold increase," Saxena noted.
He stressed that children and the elderly were disproportionately affected and every common citizen was facing incessant burning of the eyes, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and laboured breathing among other respiratory discomfort.
He cited the opinion of health experts who have consistently flagged the situation as hazardous and dangerous "and are asking for schools to be closed, apart from advising people to remain indoors, not to go for morning walks and refrain from outdoor physical activities".
"Due to severe air pollution and consequent restrictions, even the socio-economic activities are badly impacted," he noted.
The existing situation is violative of the citizens' fundamental right to health and the right to life, he said.
Saxena also said the Delhi government had also gone out of its way to promote and publicise a "bio-decomposer" for use by farmers through extensive and large-scale advertisements in newspapers and television by spending crores.
"It is surprising that despite these initiatives and interventions, cases of stubble burning, particularly in your state, have not only continued unabated but increased tragically, severely affecting air quality in the National Capital amongst other places. In a democratic set up, we in the government are expected to adopt a multi-modal and proactive approach to quell such foreseeable detriments to human health and life," he said.
Saxena said he has also requested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to look into the matter even though his state makes negligible contribution to the menace.
"I have additionally advised my Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal ji to engage with you in this regard," he said.
In response, Mann said it was not right to politicise such a serious issue.
"LG sahib, you are stopping the work of the elected government of Delhi. You stopped the 'Red light on, Gaadi off' campaign and by writing a letter to me you are doing politics? It is not right to do politics on such a serious issue," Mann said in a tweet in Hindi.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal said the problem of air pollution was affecting the entirety of north India and that there should be no blame game or politics over it.
"Since our government is there in Punjab, stubble burning is our responsibility. It has just been six months since we formed the government. Give us time till next year to address the issue of stubble burning," he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)