Home/ Politics / Policy/  Bhure Lal: Delhi’s anti-pollution crusader

New Delhi: As Delhi struggled to breathe with air quality touching “severe" levels this Tuesday, Bhure Lal, chairman, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) sounded the warning to the city’s residents. “The air quality level has touched ‘severe’ levels, but if it reaches emergency levels, then we will have to restrict the use of private vehicles. What is wrong in it? It is what Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) warrants," said Lal.

As chairman of the statutory body constituted by the central government in 1998 following a Supreme Court order to control air pollution, Lal’s priorities are clear—if air pollution has to be controlled, the emphasis should be on public transport.

Once known for his penchant for going after the corrupt and cleaning the system, Lal’s task today is to cut down on Delhi’s high pollution levels.

One of his key initiatives as EPCA chief, a post he has held for last two decades, was spearheading the campaign for the switch-over of public vehicles from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) as a cleaner fuel in 2002, amid strong opposition from the auto industry.

“Whether state governments procure additional public transport from adjoining states or request buses from schools, the emphasis should be on public transport. Metro frequency and number of coaches have to be enhanced," said Lal, known for taking tough decisions, unfazed by criticism.

Born in Delhi, Lal earned a doctorate in economics before joining the Indian Army in 1963. After serving in the military for seven years, he joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1970 and was allotted the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

He served as district magistrate in Allahabad and Varanasi. Not long after, he was appointed secretary to UP’s chief minister, V.P. Singh with whom he was known to share a close association. When Singh became India’s eighth Prime Minister, Lal joined him in Delhi as joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.

But, it was his nearly two years stint as chief of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that Lal shook the power centres and went after leading businessmen. He investigated Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) violations in the 1986 Bofors scam, a job which left him facing CBI questioning for months. He also served as secretary, Central Vigilance Commission.

Decades later, the shrewd administrator is now helming Delhi’s fight to combat air pollution.

“We do not want to create panic. But, if the ‘severe’ condition persists for several days, we will have to take tough steps. If you are given an opportunity to ride in a private car or life, so a chance to live, what will you choose? Private vehicle or life?," said Lal.

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Updated: 01 Nov 2018, 07:49 AM IST
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