Top officials of the Environment Ministry, Delhi Development Authority and three Municipal Commissioners on Friday stayed away from a key meeting of a parliamentary panel on urban development that was to discuss the severe pollution levels in the Capital.
Chairman of the committee and MP Jagdambika Pal, sources said, cut the meeting short due to the absence of officials. Those who skipped included Union Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra, DDA Vice-Chairman Tarun Kapoor and the three Municipal Commissioners.
Sources said Mr. Pal will be writing to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha to initiate contempt of parliamentary privileges against the missing officials.
As many as 25 of the 29 members of the committee were absent. Other than Mr. Pal, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, BJP MP C.R. Patil and National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi were the only ones to attend.
Delhi BJP MP Gautam Gambhir was among the absentees. A tweet by former cricketer V.V.S. Laxman showed Mr. Gambhir enjoying roadside snacks at Indore in M.P., where he has gone for a commentary assignment on the India-Bangladesh test match.
AAP launched an all-out attack on the BJP for Mr. Gambhir’s absence. Quoting Mr. Laxman's tweet, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said in a tweet: “Does Delhi deserve such MPs who are busy with Jalebi Poha while missing crucial Parliamentary Committee Meeting on Pollution in Delhi NCR.” The majority of members in the committee are from the BJP, Mr Bharadwaj said, adding that the absence of Mr. Gambhir and other BJP MPs shows that the party was not serious about the health of Delhiites.
The AAP said the agenda for the meeting was circulated a week in advance on November 8.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said he would investigate the absence of officials from his Ministry. “This is a serious matter and I will definitely enquire about it. But let me emphasise that addressing Delhi's pollution is not about indulging in blame-game,” he said when reporters sought an explanation for the absence.
Later in the day, the Environment Ministry issued a statement saying that the body was represented by a Deputy Secretary and an officer from the Central Pollution Control Board. A Joint Secretary could not attend as she was to appear for “an important matter” in the Supreme Court. The Ministry had submitted “detailed notes” to the Urban Development Ministry, an official statement said.