Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has come under fire amid reports that he has left Delhi for a family trip overseas, even as the city gasps for breath with pollution levels hitting “severe” on the air quality scale on Saturday.
Kejriwal, who has likened Delhi to a “gas chamber” for the second year, is on a family trip to Dubai, some news channels reported. This triggered a backlash on social media and also invited the wrath of the BJP, which alleged that the Delhi CM was visiting Dubai with a “hidden agenda”.
“Arvind Kejriwal cares about his family so much that he urgently booked tickets and ran away to Dubai with them as soon as Delhi started choking with pollution,” said a Twitter user as anger over the city’s dismal air quality grew.
Questioning the motive behind the chief minister’s visit, Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta told reporters on Saturday that Kejriwal “suddenly” left for Dubai on November 8 by Air India flight and will be back on November 11. He alleged that the information about the visit has been “hidden” as there is something wrong.
“The silence of Aam Aadmi Party about his trip proves that there is something wrong. It is clear that there is a hidden agenda behind this visit,” the BJP leader alleged. “This trip is not being called official visit or a family trip. What is the purpose of this Dubai visit, what is the agenda, where will he be staying and whom will he meet? Why is all this information being hidden?” Gupta questioned.
“It is to be noted that the contractor responsible for providing door step delivery in Delhi under AAP government scheme also lives in Dubai,” he claimed.
However, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said in a press conference that Kejriwal has gone “abroad” to attend a family function of his IIT batchmate. He also denied BJP charges as outlandish.
As the situation in Delhi deteriorated, environmental activists said residents need to be more vocal about holding political leaders to account over the pollution. “Public pressure has to be much sharper and demand compliance. Directions, policies have been issued but stringent implementation is needed,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, an executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment, a think-tank.
Still, there is little sign in Delhi that residents are doing much to protect themselves from the smog. Activists say the apparent lack of concern about the pollution gives politicians the cover they need for failing to adequately address the problem.
As Delhi’s air quality remained severe on Saturday, authorities extended till November 12 the ban on construction activities, industries using coal and biomass, and entry of trucks, while the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued show cause notices to police departments and officials of Delhi-NCR over “non-compliance” of the Supreme Court order on sale and bursting of fire crackers.
Delhi-NCR had recorded its worst air quality a day after Diwali on Wednesday, with AQI at 642 in ‘severe plus emergency’ category. On Friday too, the air quality remained ‘severe’ and though the pollution level dipped marginally for a brief period on Saturday morning, it turned severe again by evening.