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NHRC holds hearing in the Delhi-NCR air pollution case

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India today held the 3rd hearing of the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi in the matter of air pollution in Delhi NCR in the light of the reports submitted by them in response to its directions in the last meeting. Seeking further reports, the next date of hearing has been fixed for 25th November, 2022.

While noting some of the actions taken by the State governments with regard to controlling air pollution by managing stubble, dust, the hospital in sewage waste, among others, the Commission emphasized that they needed to have a strategic plan in place to plug the gaps between the policies and implementation thereof for providing clean air and atmosphere with better civic amenities ensuring the protection of the right to life and health of the citizens.

The Commission said that the Government of Punjab will have to have dedicated machines for poor farmers for harvesting and disposal of stubble. The machines should be procured and provided to the poor farmers through the panchayats or cooperatives free of cost for harvesting to bring down the incidents of stubble burning to zero. Some fees may be charged from those who could afford it. The Commission asked for the specific details of stubble generated; how much was burnt and how much was processed effectively by specifying place-wise incidents. It also asked to find out the alternatives, if crop residue decomposer machines are not effectively working.

It was stated that the States need to purchase mechanized sweeping machines for every city in coordination with the civic bodies and make special provisions in the budget for the same. There should be a road map for providing civic amenities in a phased but time-bound manner.

The Commission was particularly concerned about the deaths of persons involved in hazardous cleaning without protective gear and asked that the governments should implement the NHRC Advisory of 24th September, 2021, invigorate the local bodies and purchase mechanical cleaning devices like Bandicoots and safety equipment for those involved in such hazardous cleaning in septic tanks. The Commission said it is high time that the public functionaries take note of it otherwise it will be constrained to recommend criminal proceedings against them.

The Commission said that the officials cannot absolve themselves of their statutory responsibilities by diverting these to a contractor for cleaning septic tanks and sewage. It also said that government should identify the spots, where there is a danger of poisonous gas and install danger signals.

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