Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia cycled to work this morning as the Delhi government implemented its 'odd-even' road-rationing scheme in an effort to combat the national capital's air pollution crisis. Speaking to NDTV while cycling, Mr Sisodia called on residents to follow his example and cooperate with their government "because it is important for our future... the future of our children". "We are doing this so we can all breathe clean air... We must cooperate and take these steps at times of crisis," he said.
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 dangerous and harmful to health. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who last week called the city a "gas chamber", has reintroduced the 'odd-even' road-rationing scheme that made its debut in 2016. The scheme will run till November 15; it will not be enforced on Sunday, November 10.
"There are many ways for people to commute to work on days they are not allowed to drive... they can car pool, take public transportation or, like me, even cycle if the office is nearby. 'Odd-even' is important. It must be followed... not because the government says so but because it is important for our future and the future of our children," Manish Sisodia told NDTV.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal carpooled to work with two cabinet colleagues. "Share cars. This will build friendship, strengthen relationships as well as save petrol and reduce pollution. Delhi will show it again," he tweeted.
Mr Sisodia said signs on the first day were encouraging. "According to information I have so far 99 per cent of vehicles are following the rules. I spoke to traffic policemen near my house and they said there are one or two cases of people driving odd-numbered cars today," he said.
Delhi's air pollution crisis has seen the Mr Sisodia's Aam Aadmi party (AAP) government, which rules Delhi, and the BJP-led NDA at the centre clash repeatedly, with Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar claiming Arvind Kejriwal is "politicising" the issue.
Mr Sisodia hit back at those allegations and claimed the Union Minister had cancelled three meetings with state environment ministers. "Either he has no time or does not consider treating the national capital's poor air quality a priority," the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Both Mr Sisodia and Mr Kejriwal have highlighted the illegal burning of farm waste and stubble in Punjab and Haryana. According to data from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Research (SAFAR), such fires have contributed massively to the pollution crisis in Delhi.
The centre has offered farmers subsidies - between 50 per cent and 80 per cent - to purchase machinery that will eliminate the need for stubble burning, but the Delhi government says this is not enough.
"There are 26 lakh farmers in Punjab and Haryana. The centre has said that they have given 63,000 machines. How will this be enough? That too, these have been given over two years. Does that mean the centre wants to keep this pollution for 50 years? What is their plan?" Mr Sisodia asked.
In an impassioned video plea posted to his Facebook account on Sunday, Mr Kejriwal urged the centre and concerned states to desist from blame games and come together to solve the problem.