Delhi pollution control officers enjoy plum posts as Kejriwal blames neighbouring states for inaction
Several officers appointed to control air pollution in Delhi enjoy plum postings with other ministries and government departments as Arvind Kejriwal blames Haryana, Punjab and UP for their inaction.
When smog started enveloping Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal squarely blamed Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for not preventing stubble burning by farmers. But the Kejriwal government itself has not taken any concrete steps to curb pollution as smog and fog still cover Delhi despite some relief after Monday's drizzle.
India Today's investigation into the government's laxity will make you scratch your stubble in disbelief. Several officers appointed to control air pollution in Delhi enjoy plum postings with other ministries and government departments.
The decision to appoint the officers was taken almost 30 years ago after an order from the Supreme Court on a case filed by public interest attorney MC Mehta, who has been battling pollution-causing industries for ages. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Asia for Public Service in 1997 and Padma Shri in 2016.
After the apex court's order, more than 40 officers were appointed as the Pollution Level Test Inspectors and Pollution Control Officers and were trained to check vehicular pollution in the city. However, they are now working at various places like licensing wing, registration wing and even at the offices of Transport Minister and Transport Commissioner.
The transfer of these officers to other wings of the transport department had started way back in 1990 through an office order that authorised Pollution Level Test Inspectors to exercise the powers of Motor Vehicle inspectors.
The matter went to the Centre and the joint secretary wrote to then commissioner of transport S Raghunathan on August 29, 1991, that under Section 213 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, both the cadres are governable by two different sets of service rules with different qualifications and duties. The ministry also ascertained in the same letter that no such instructions were issued by the ministry to Delhi government to issue such orders.
After the position in this regard was been made clear by both the Delhi and Central government, anti-pollution executives moved the Supreme court once again. In March, 1997, the Supreme Court issued an order instructing the Delhi government that "the members of the appellant are technical anti-pollution level test Inspectors. Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the cadre of Motor Vehicles Inspectors has statutory base and, therefore, they are distinct from pollution inspectors. The order further said, "It would be for the appropriate government to take policy decision. The tribunal is not competent to give directions to lay down the policy or to issue directions to create promotional avenues."
Despite these orders from Supreme Court and Central government, these Pollution Level Test Inspector and Pollution Control Officers have been shifted to the other wings of transport department and literally.
Delhi's transport minister Kailash Gehlot said that the government has received complaints against officers who are supposed to control air pollution but enjoy plum postings. All such officers will be asked to perform their duty in the anti-pollution wing of Delhi government, he said.
Even environmental experts claim that vehicles are one of the biggest contributor of pollutants in city and due to shortage of staff, the campaign against pollution is facing a big hurdle.
Sources even claim that the Environment Pollution Control Authority, which has been formed by the apex court to suggest policies on pollution check, has also taken the issue of shifting these pollution control officers to different wings of the transport department.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment, claims that in Delhi there are more than 900 PUC centers and less than 30 officials who check these centers. "The number of officials is too less to cater to the increasing numbers of vehicles in the Capital. The government should take immediate action against these erring officials and put them to work."