New Delhi, Nov 13 (PTI) Politicians on Monday traded barbs over bursting of firecrackers on Diwali in the city, with the Aam Aadmi Party accusing the BJP of encouraging people to flout SC ban on crackers.
Delhi recorded a jump in pollution levels with a smoky haze enveloping it the morning after its residents burst crackers apparently with full abandon.
The city recorded its best air quality on Diwali afternoon in eight years, with its 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) settling at 218 at 4 pm.
Talking to PTI Video, Rai said, "The AQI was over 300 last year and this year it was less than 300. Due to rain, there was wind and pollution levels went down. People of Delhi followed the SC ban and government restrictions on bursting of firecrackers.
"We saw in some places, especially BJP leaders promoting firecrackers. There was a targeted bursting of firecrackers at some places and due to that, the AQI has gone up today. If those crackers had not burst, the AQI would have remained low." Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale also lashed out at the BJP for asking people to burst crackers.
"BJP's idea of Hindu pride is choking you & your children with toxic air & destroying your cardiac & lung health by asking you to burst crackers.
"Remember, these rich netas of BJP live with multiple air purifiers in Lutyens houses & have access to the best medical treatment. Just like how they never had to scramble for oxygen during Covid like you did. By falling to their toxic communal agenda, you’re only destroying your own families. When you're down, they won’t be there for you,"Gokhale said in a post on X.
In another post on X, he shared the copy of a letter he had written to the Delhi Police asking them to furnish details of the number of cases of firecracker use that were registered on Sunday night and details of action, if any, taken against them.
Despite the ban, people were easily able to procure firecrackers, he alleged.
Delhi BJP secretary Harish Khurana accused Rai of blaming the saffron party for his own party's failure in reining in stubble burning in Punjab.
"The biggest reason behind pollution in Delhi is parali (paddy stubble) burning in Punjab. But, he will not say anything about it. After the Supreme Court lashed out, parali burning was stopped in Punjab for two days but it started again and on Sunday out of 1,482 incidents of parali burning, 982 were reported from Punjab," he said.
Khurana demanded Rai and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal release air pollution data of the last 15-20 days.
"No firecrackers were burst then and still the pollution level was high … air quality index is around 306 after Diwali. The minister should also tell what has been done to check dust pollution and open burning of garbage in the city," he asked.
Delhi BJP vice president Kapil Mishra called Rai's statement on air pollution "shameful." "It's foolish to hold crackers responsible for air pollution. A week ago, Delhi's air quality index was around 400-500. Post Diwali, it's 296. If crackers caused pollution, then Gaza would have the highest level of pollution. There should be a fight against pollution," he said.
On Sunday, Mishra hailed people for defying the cracker ban.
"Proud of You Delhi. These are voices of resistance, voices of freedom and democracy. People are bravely defying unscientific, illogical, dictatorial ban Happy Diwali," he said in a post on X on Sunday.
BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla in a post on X accused the AAP and opposition alliance INDIA of targeting Hindus and Diwali.
"AAP & I.N.D.I alliance now targets Hindus & Diwali," he said. "Are we surprised?" He said that there were 900 cases of stubble burning on Diwali in Punjab despite SC warnings. "Over all there have been above 23,000 incidents of Parali burning in Punjab." The BJP leader, formerly associated with Congress, claimed dust, industries and construction, vehicular pollution, and biomass burning were the chief contributors to the city's pollution.
"What did you do about this in the last 9 years? Shri Gopal Rai Stop abusing Hindus for your fault," he said.
Last week, the Supreme Court had said the order banning firecrackers containing barium binds every state and is not just limited to Delhi-NCR region, which is reeling under severe air pollution. PTI SLB VIT SLB VN VN