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States should refrain from indulging in blame game on pollution: Khattar

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday said various states should refrain from playing blame game on the issue of air pollution in the NCR region and beyond, saying this problem is not limited to any particular state.

"The states should refrain from playing the blame game on the issue of air pollution as the problem is not confined to a particular state," he said.

Khattar said the affected states should make joint efforts to address the problem.

He said apart from the burning of crop residue, several other factors like construction activities, vehicular traffic and burning of waste also significantly contribute in increasing the air pollution.

He said he would urge his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal to keep a check on such activities in Delhi.

Notably, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal has been holding stubble burning in neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana responsible for worsening air quality in the national capital.

Wearing masks, Kejriwal's Aam Admi Party members, led by senior leader Gopal Rai, on Thursday protested outside the Punjab Bhawan and Haryana Bhawan in Delhi over the spike in air pollution in the national capital, alleging stubble burning in the neighbouring states to be behind the problem.

On being asked about the problem of air pollution, especially in the National Capital Region due to the burning of crop residue, Khattar told reporters here that "as a result of various steps taken by the administration and support of people, the situation in Haryana has considerably improved".

"In the last 24 hours, only 70 cases of burning of agriculture residue has been reported in Haryana which is much lower than the cases reported in the neighboring state of Punjab," he said.

He said an extensive mass awareness campaign, aimed at further reducing the air pollution, has been launched in the state.

Notably, Khattar along with 39 other BJP MLAs walked to Haryana assembly from his residence to attend the session on Monday in a bid to create awareness on the urgent need to check air pollution.

Khattar said he decided to cover the distance (nearly 2 km) from his official residence here to the Vidhan Sabha with an aim to generate awareness among the masses towards environment conservation.

Giving slogan of Paryavaran Bachao-Bhavishya Banao, he told reporters that people should make all out efforts to minimise the pollution as it would not only help them keeping good health but also make the environment clean and green.

The Haryana government, meanwhile on Monday, directed officials to take strict action against those found burning crop residue, as a blanket of haze has enveloped the state in the past few days and the air quality index in many districts remained in the 'severe' and 'very poor' category.

At a meeting here with the deputy commissioners and all-district officers, Chief Secretary Keshni Anand Arora said officers along with mobile teams should immediately reach the area where stubble burning is reported and strict action should be taken against those indulging in the practice.

During the meeting held through video conference, Arora also directed officials to carry out intensive campaign to curb the problem.

The chief secretary asked deputy commissioners to submit a report every evening on FIRs filed against farmers involved in stubble burning, according to a statement.

Fire tenders should be rushed at the earliest to the stubble burning spots and expenses incurred in dousing the fire should be charged from the farmers, the statement quoted her as saying.

"Apart from this, gram sabhas should also be organised in villages for the next two-three days in which the names of the farmers, who burnt stubble, should be divulged by the sarpanch and strict action should be strongly recommended against them in the panchayat," Arora said.

The chief secretary said the village secretary and revenue department officials should also be involved and help farmers in managing stubble.

Arora said Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has given directions that action should be taken against any officer or employee who is not paying attention to the environment protection.

She also directed officials concerned that water should be sprayed on trees to reduce the pollution level.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, who assumed the charge of his office on Monday on the 5th floor of Haryana Civil Secretariat here, said he would be writing a letter to the Prime Minister's Office regarding the permanent solution to tackle the problem of pollution "caused by the residue burning of the paddy crop".

Dushyant was accompanied by Khattar when he assumed the charge.