Sometimes the broader issue comes up during winter months when it gets people's attention just after Diwali. But it doesn't get into Parliament space very much. By the time the Winter Session starts, there are other urgent issues MPs want to raise, he said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday expressed disappointment over the “very limited” discussion on air quality in Parliament and said there should be enough people in the political space who care about this issue. The lack of the discussion, he said, could be because air quality is not a determinant of votes in India.
Air quality issue has affected elections in other democracies, but in India, one would be hard-pressed to think of one electoral race at any level in which it has figured as a politically salient issue and has been determinant in terms of people’s votes, Tharoor said during a round table consultation on ‘Energy Transition, Subsidies, and Air Quality Management’.
“Just having broad acquiescence of nodding heads of parliamentarians is not going to be enough. There’s got to be enough people in the political space who care about this issue and are willing to bat for solutions at all levels,” he said. “We all admit that there has been very limited discussion on air quality in Parliament. In the 10 years that I have been in Parliament, I have raised it once, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has raised it once and that’s been about it,” Tharoor said.
Sometimes the broader issue comes up during winter months when it gets people’s attention just after Diwali. But it doesn’t get into Parliament space very much. By the time the Winter Session starts, there are other urgent issues MPs want to raise, he said.
“My colleagues may not disagree with me when I say that none of us has actually experienced an issue where voters are going to vote or not vote for us because of our stand on air quality,” the Congress leader said.
Tharoor said his concern is that air quality dialogues are restricted to conferences and have still not moved beyond technocratic forums into anything remotely approaching a mass movement, the way anti-tobacco and polio vaccination did. These campaigns became successful because these were backed by political will and people got involved, he said.
On the National Clean Air Programme, Tharoor said it has, in many ways, come a bit late and slow. Tharoor said there is a concern that despite India’s wealth of civil society stakeholders and technical experts on this subject, there has been limited public consultation on the plan and its target.
“I don’t see that the plan has any legal measures incorporated within it to ensure accountability and to penalize non-implementation,” he rued.