As air pollution is a growing problem in India, government ministries are increasing their supply of air purifiers to help combat toxic air.
So far, the Indian government has purchased around 300 air purifiers within the last two years, according to Reuters.
But these air purifiers have been distributed only amongst six federal ministries and the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and have cost Indian taxpayers a total of $125,353.
“It’s absolutely criminal to spend taxpayers’ money in buying air purifiers for government officials,” Vimlendu Jha, an environmental activist, said.
While pollution in India has become detrimental, government authorities have failed to address the crisis head-on and come up with solutions.
In November, New Delhi officials declared a public health emergency and were forced to shut down schools and limit the use of cars due to high levels of pollution, citing low visibility.
The city also distributed around 5 million masks to school children and required that they wear them to attend school.
During this period of increased pollution, India’s Foreign Ministry purchased 12 air purifiers, four of which cost $1,000 each. New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal even called the city a “gas chamber.”
Created by crop burning, industrial emissions, and vehicle fumes, this smog contains toxic particles, known as PM2.5, which cause around 1.1 million deaths every year. The deadly particulate killed approximately 60,987 infants in 2016, according to a World Health Organization report on clean air.
Serious policy changes and regulations are needed in order to reduce air pollution in India. Switching to renewable energies and implementing vehicle emissions standards can help combat the rise of pollution in the country.
One environmental ministry official pushed back against complaints.
“The government is not spending a fortune by buying air purifiers. And it’s not that officials don’t get to inhale toxic air by confining themselves to their offices,” the unnamed official said.
However, most Indians cannot afford air purifiers of their own, and watch as their tax dollars are spent on hundreds of devices for government officials, who have not passed any bills to actively combat air pollution in the country. The average income in New Delhi is around $400 a month, and a single air purifier can cost up to $1,000.