Considering that pollution kills more people in India than HIV, TB and Malaria put together, I expected the new budget to put more emphasis on pollution reduction measures. However, the interim budget for 2019—announced by the Finance Minister (FM) on February 1—has halved the funds for pollution abatement, allocating only ₹10 crores—down from last year’s ₹20 crores—for subduing the rise in air pollution. To make matters worse, no funds have been assigned to renewable energy, which is a crucial domain for pollution control. Clearly, this budget isn’t reflective of a nation whose capital has often been referred to as a “gas chamber” due to its toxic air.
Given that the government has recently launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), it is hard to grasp their logic behind curtailing the funds at this pivotal time. It is also worth noting that, with NCAP, the government hopes to reduce #AirPollution by as much as 30% in the next five years—something which would be near impossible if they continue with the same attitude in the subsequent budgets.
I remember it wasn’t so long ago when post-Diwali smog had clogged the veins of Delhi, forcing the schools to shut down. My school was shut down too. I suffered during those days and so did every student in the city. Every time I tried to go outside I was troubled by the poisonous air which left me with a persistent cough and watery eyes. I didn’t have any choice but to stay at home because it was nauseating outside. In a way, I was imprisoned in my own house because the authorities didn’t bother to handle pollution before things got out of hand. Has the government forgotten that time when the AQI levels went beyond what is measurable …? … When breathing in Delhi became equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes in a day …? The people in power might have severe amnesia but I don’t.
As per recent WHO reports, 9 out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India—an alarming stat if you ask me. But somehow, even after being aware of this abysmal state, the FM decided a mere 10 crores would be sufficient to cure a pollution-afflicted India.
I understand that the new budget has been prepared with the General Elections in mind; but, keeping in mind the awful pollution scenario at present, I think it is high time we consider pollution control as an important election issue. After all, the right to breathe clean air is the most basic human right.