Air Pollution Ordinance 2020: Raises more questions than providing solutions

While legal experts have questioned its national capital centric approach, environmental experts are not sure if the bureaucratic body that will be formed will be able to take stringent measures against the menace of air pollution

Nivedita Khandekar

Representative Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“The Air Quality will get even worse, I have seen the ordinance and it will not take care of anything this year.”

That was Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for a class XII student and a law student, who are the petitioners in the current case in the Supreme Case that has prompted the Centre to come up with an ordinance. This comment just about sums up the confidence that the ordinance to set up a ‘Commission for Air Quality Management for the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas 2020’ (The adjoining areas comprise states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh) has evoked.

As per the ordinance, notified late Wednesday night and out in public domain on Thursday morning, polluters may now face a 5-year jail term and a fine of up to Rs 1 crore. The Commission will have 18 bureaucrats and scores of co-opted members drawn from various ministries. It will have powers to issue directions for control of pollution, it can take suo moto cognizance of complaints and act against polluting industry, including stopping power supply.

This Commission, the Ordinance states, will replace all other committees to streamline public participation and inter-state cooperation for managing air pollution in the Delhi-NCR area.

But as pointed out by the petitioners, the Ordinance will fail to curb pollution this winter season. A number of experts have been pointing out for years together how there was a need of a unified body that has powers to act against polluters and also for an air-shed approach, which means, considering a wider geographical area and also the meteorology, especially wind flow directions.

The Ordinance, even when it states that it comes into effect “at once”, will take a lot of time to implement since the Rules are to be formed and notified.

A careful reading of the text of the Ordinance shows that the Centre has actually confessed to the lack of a dedicated agency, permanent in nature, unlike the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (popularly known as EPCA) set up in 1998, and absence of coordinated efforts among the States involved. “Air pollution is not a localized phenomenon and effects are felt even far away from the source, thus creating the need for regional level initiatives through inter-State and intercity coordination,” it reads.

There already was a Graded Action Plan (GAP) for the Delhi NCR and there was a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) launched in January 2019. Under the NCAP, it is expected National Air Quality Standards will be met in all (102) non-attainment cities identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). With the Commission overriding EPCA, possibly GAP will be ineffective, but the programme for 102 non-attainment cities would continue.

Why just Delhi-NCR?

Even when air pollution in Delhi-NCR becomes a topic of prime debate every winter owing to the burning of crop residue by the farmers in Haryana and Punjab, there are scores of places across India that witness much more pollution, that too round the year.

Several areas of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh that have a plethora of mines and power plants among other industries or cities such as Chandrapur in Maharashtra face much severe air pollution almost round the year. All these could have been addressed by bringing in a template of a Commission that can be replicated in each of the problem areas. These problem areas, what the ordinance addresses, is a relatively newer concept for India – the air-shed. It is a geographical area within which multiple factors affect the given area’s air pollution. But with national capital centric approach, experts feel, it is a lost opportunity.

Even when the new Commission could bring “focused and sustained attention to air quality and help solve inter-departmental coordination problems,” Dr Navroz Dubash, Professor, Centre for Policy Research & Lead Coordinating Author, Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out adding “Air pollution is more than an NCR problem. (Formation of) the Commission is a lost opportunity to explicitly set the ground rules for an air-shed based approach – one that could have been deployed in polluted areas across the country.”

The ordinance again emphasises that the lives of people in other parts of the country are not valued as much as it is done for citizens in Delhi-NCR, we have hazardous air pollution situation throughout most of the country and the ordinance fails to address that issue – Sunil Dahiya, Analyst, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)

The most vocal opposing voice was that of Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer and Founder, Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment(LIFE). “Having correctly identified the regional nature of the problem and the need to go beyond the local, it goes on to state that there is a need ‘for a permanent solution and establish a self-regulated, democratically monitored mechanism to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Area’.”

This proves that the main purpose of this Ordinance is to improve the air quality only in the National Capital Region, Dutta said, adding, “Unless the Central Government sets up similar committees in other polluted regions of the Country, it violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and discriminates against those who are not in the NCR. Clearly, there are equally if not more polluted regions which are beyond the NCR.”

More issues with the Ordinance

But these are just the important, obvious issues. The Ordinance has drawn flak from various experts owing to its composition or the fine amount restricted to mere Rs 1 crore (when the NGT has in various cases imposed Rs 100-150 crore as fine). 

As one of the experts said, “One can hope that there will be serious debate in Parliament when the Government presents this ordinance on the reopening of Parliament.” Rightly so as the current Ordinance continues to see “air pollution as a scientific and technical issue overlooking the social aspects of the problem.”


Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes on environmental and developmental issues. She can be reached at nivedita_him@rediffmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @nivedita_Him

Terrorist kills 3 in Nice

Newsroom24x7 Network

Nice/Paris: A terrorist armed with a sharp edged weapon and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Greatest) stabbed to death two persons and beheaded a woman at a church in Nice located in the French Riviera on the south east coast of France on the  Mediterranian sea on Thursday 29 October 2020.

In another incident on Thursday, police shot dead a man who was also shouting “Allahu Akbar” and threatening those around with a handgun in Montfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon.

Nice was also the target of terrorist attack on Bastille Day in 2016 when more than 80 persons, many of them foreigners and young children,  were killed and hundreds were injured when a lorry was ploughed into a crowded  waterfront by a 31-year-old Franco-Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. The lorry had dug into the large crowd that had gathered at Promenade des Anglais for the Bastille Day fireworks display. The driver had ploughed on for about 2 kms before he was shot dead by the police.

Antrix will be better off ignoring the US Court order for enforcement and payment of $1.2 billion compensation to Devas

Newsroom24x7 Network

Washington/Bengaluru: The order passed on Tuesday 27 October by Judge Thomas S. Zilly of the US District Court of Western District of Washington asking Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), to pay Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd a compensation of $1.2 billion for canceling a business agreement with Devas will remain only on paper as the advise from those in knowledgeable circles in India is that Antrix should ignore the order as it does not have any business interest in the US.

Earlier in September, Judge Thomas S Zilly of the US District Court, Western District of Washington had lifted the stay on the proceedings of the lawsuit filed by Devas against Antrix.

After Antrix terminated its agreement with Devas in February 2011, Devas has been seeking legal remedy both in India and abroad.

Devas had filed the law suit in the US District Court two years ago taking the plea that three international tribunals had declared the termination of the Devas-Antrix Agreement as wrong and bad in law.

Antrix, on its part, had raised the issue of jurisdiction and demanded that the suit be dismissed. It was also underscored by Antrix that a decision in the arbitration award would violate the sovereignty of India. The issue of corruption was also brought into focus keeping in view the case registered by the CBI following investigation into the Antrix-Devas agreement.

Click the following hyperlinks for a background check

Antrix-Devas case and PCA: BIPA with Mauritius needs to be relooked at

CBI files charge sheet against former Secretary of Space and ED of Antrix Corporation

CBI files chargesheet against former Secretary of Space and ED of Antrix Corporation

Antrix-Devas Agreement, national security and CBI

CBI registers case in the huge Antrix-Devas scam

“Bengali man” jibe against Kamal Nath lands Imarti Devi in trouble

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Bhopal: The election Commission of India has issued notice for the violation of the Model code of Conduct to Imarti Devi, the BJP candidate in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly by-election from Dabra (SC) constituency and a diehard follower of senior party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia as she paid former MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath in his own coin.

Nath had called Imarti Devi an “item” at an election rally. The Commission had served a notice to Kamal Nath also asking him to explain his “item” remark and responded to his reply with the instruction that he should not use any such word or statement while making public remarks.

The Commission had sought a report from the Chief Electoral Officer, Madhya Pradesh on the complaint aired on social media. The report has been attached with authorized transcript of Imarti Devi’s alleged address. She has been quoted as saying:

यह बंगाली आदमी है यह मध्यप्रदेश आया केवल मुख्यमंत्री के लिए। उसको बोलने की सभ्यता नहीं है। इसे क्या कहा जाये। वह मुख्यमंत्री के पद से हटा तो पागल हो गया है। पागल बनके पूरे मध्यप्रदेश में धून रहा है तो उसे क्या कह सकते है, उसकी माँ बहन आयटम होगी बंगाल की। हमें पता थोडी है।

“He is a Bengali man. He came to Madhya Pradesh only for becoming Chief Minister. He does not have the decency to speak. What to say about him. He has gone mad after being removed from the post of Chief Minister. Like a lunatic, he is roaming all over Madhya Pradesh, what can we say about him. His mother sister may be item from Bengal. How do we know.”

After the announcement of bye elections to the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh on 29 September, 2020, the provisions of Model Code of Conduct have been imposed in the State.

Sub Para (1) of Para I of the Model Code of Conduct provides that ‘no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate the existing differences or create tutul hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic and Sub Para (2) of Porn 1 of the Model Code of Conduct provides that parties and candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of the parties. Sub Para (5) Para I of the Model Code of Conduct also provides that “The right of every individual for peaceful and undisturbed home-life shall be respected, however much the political parties or candidates may resent his political opinions or activities. Organizing demonstrations or picketing before the houses of individuals by way of protesting against their opinions or activities shall not be resorted to under any circumstances.

The Election Commission has also issued advisory to all the recognised political parties and candidates to refrain from any deeds, action and utterances that may be construed as being repugnant to the honour and dignity of women.