Right to Clean Air Bill

Of late, India has become one of the major hotspots for air pollution. In recent years, alarming pollution level is witnessed above the entire North Indian Gangetic plains. According to an estimate, air pollution has caused around 1 in 4 premature deaths in India.

Photochemical smog is a widespread problem in industrial cities all over the world. In India, northern India, especially Delhi suffers from photochemical smog especially at the time of stubble burning in neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana. Smog is nothing but a combination of smoke and fog. Farmers in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have the practice of burning the stubble to prepare the agricultural fields for the next sowing season. According to IIT Kanpur, stubble burning is the third highest contributor to air pollution during winters, after construction dust and vehicular fumes. Photochemical smog results in reduced visibility, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory diseases in humans. The smog affects brain, eyes, nervous system and lungs as it contains toxic pollutants like PM2.5, PM10, carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx).

In the wake of alarming pollution levels above the entire North Indian Gangetic plains, Congress MP from Rohtak, Deepender Singh Hooda has come up with the draft “Right to Clean Air Bill”.

Salient features of the draft Right to Clean Air Bill

The draft “Right to Clean Air Bill” is a private member’s bill that will be introduced in Parliament during the Winter Session. Following are the salient features of the new draft bill:

Firstly, the new draft bill seeks to constitute “National Clean Air Committee” under the head of the PM by the means of a constitutional amendment.

Secondly, the new draft bill seeks to constitute an open platform in which citizens can join the movement and suggest possible solutions to the “National Clean Air Committee”. The motive behind this is to reach out to every citizen and experts and involve them to resolve this problem.

How far the bill can fight air pollution in the country?

The draft “Right to Clean Air Bill” being a private member’s bill, its chance of getting passed is remote. In fact, only a fraction of the private member’s bill which are introduced are even discussed on the floor of the House. As a matter of fact not even a single private member’s bill has become law since 1970. Till date, only 14 private member’s bills have become law in the history of Indian Parliament. The last private member’s bill that has become a law was the Supreme Court (enlargement of criminal appellate jurisdiction) Bill that was passed in 1970.

But, the new draft bill can go a long way in creating awareness and urgency among administrators to address the issue of air pollution in the country.

What can be the way forward?

To address the issue of air pollution, a strong collective will on the part of the government is needed along with longer-term vision and proper planning. Globally, there are many success stories in this front. The Mexico City, which was declared as the most polluted city in 1992 has managed to improve its Air Quality Index (AQI) after years of work. Its AQI now is in the range of 50 to 100.

Another example is London, which was confronted with “Great Smog” in the early ‘50s. In 1956, the then British government introduced the Clean Air Act in 1956 to control the problem. Beijing is yet another example where the issue of air pollution has been controlled.

Suggested Question: Private Bills are rarely passed in Indian Parliament but they go a long way in creating awareness and urgency among administrators to address the issues of public importance. Discuss while focus on Right to Clean Air Bill.

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