New Delhi: Smog engulfs the national capital as the air quality worsens, on Nov 15, 2019. The air pollution emergency in Delhi has aggravated with the air quality index (AQI) spiking sharply to 528 on Friday morning.The AQI on Thursday was much lower. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Nov 19 : The much-hyped debate on air pollution in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday witnessed empty seats and vacant galleries in the House.

To the surprise of many, half of the Delhi MPs, majority of Cabinet and state Ministers, and almost all prominent leaders from the Opposition benches skipped the important discussion, which was initiated by Congress MP Manish Tewari.

The only saving grace for the government was that Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javedkar, reached the House much ahead of the commencement of the debate.

During his speech, BJP's Delhi MP Pervesh Sahib Singh Verma took a jibe at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), saying that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal spent Rs 600 crore on advertisements relating to awareness on air pollution, but "his MP Bhagwant Maan has not even bothered to be present in the House during the debate".

Later on, Maan was seen rushing to the Parliament House to join the debate.

Similarly, Congress stalwarts Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and several of its leaders skipped the discussion. The press gallery too had a thin attendance as the debate, which started at around 3.45 p.m., continued at a low pace.

Earlier, Manish Tewari urged the House that in the wake of a health emergency, the government should think of evolving a statutory committee on pollution.

The committee, answerable to the Parliament, should have a close vigil on the situation as India faces a challenging task of putting a check on the deteriorating quality of air and water.

"We have enough reasons to set up a committee. For instance, out of 86 live monitoring stations of the Central Pollution Control Board, 78 reveal that water is so polluted that it is not even fit to be used for a bath," said Tewari, who has been raising the issue for quite some time now.

Another prominent member, Pinaki Misra of the Biju Janta Dal (BJD), said that stubble burning after the harvest season is not a major cause of rise in air pollution.

"Let's not blame the poor farmers. Stubble burning can contribute to pollution, but it is not the main reason for rising levels of pollution. The fact is that the government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, should take it (pollution) as a challenge, just like the manner in which he (Modi) launched a crusade against hygiene," said the BJD MP from Puri.

In almost an empty House, the debate continued till 6.30 p.m. and it is expected that when discussions resume on Wednesday, a good number of MPs would finally turn up to share their thoughts on India's most burning issue concerning the health of its people.

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