NEW DELHI: A senior bureaucrat, who was the previous environment secretary of Delhi, has criticised the AAP government's decision to dismantle the BRT corridor, asserting it was the "most progressive" step to fight air pollution in the city.
Keshav Chandra, who has twice held the post of Delhi's environment secretary, said the decision to scrap the 5.8-km- long stretch was an act of pandering to the opinion of a vocal middle class, which has a "strong sense of entitlement".
"The fault was not with the design. There was a communication gap. It was mainly due to a strong sense of entitlement of the middle class. This class has a stronger voice," Chandra said yesterday while delivering a talk on the pollution crisis as part of the 'Delhi Matters' series.
He was referring to the shrill criticism of the car owners that the bus corridor was behind traffic jams along the route, an angle which was routinely played up by a section of the media leading to its eventual dismantling in January 2016.
He said the city needs around 11,000 buses as against the existing fleet which is barely 5,000. In this context, scrapping the BRT corridor was akin to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".
"It (the BRT corridor) was the most progressive step on air pollution," he said about the corridor, which was conceptualised and built by the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government in 2008 at a cost of around Rs 150 crore.
Apart from holding the post of environment secretary, Chandra was also the chief executive officer of the Delhi Jal Board. He was posted to the ministry of commerce last month.
At the talk session, senior journalist Pallavi Aiyar, who has authored a book on air pollution, spoke on lessons India can take from Beijing on tackling foul air.
She said it was not entirely right to imagine that China could take stringent steps only because it has an authoritarian system as opposed to the democratic set up in India which comes with a set of pulls and pressures.
"It (China) may be authoritarian but not totalitarian," she said. Aiyar was the China correspondent of The Hindu.
She said as opposed to India, China's local authorities have acted against polluting industries, detained its owners, declared the closure of hundreds of coal-based thermal power plants and ushered in a low emissions regime which governs the existing ones.
She also contrasted Beijing's extensive pollution monitoring network, with around 1500 monitoring centres in 900 cities, with Indian figures.
"There are no silver bullets to fight pollution but one does not need a magic wand either," she said.