There is a very thin dividing line between tolerance and intolerance on our part, as far as public issues are concerned. We have an uncanny ability to protest and vandalise public spaces and properties over an issue as trivial as a movie. This is so, despite the fact that it is a purely coincidental piece of aesthetic work that may or may not be to the liking of some of us. And yet, when it comes to much larger issues, our conscience remains unshaken. Sadly, this is the case with the alarmingly high pollution levels in the country which have been getting from bad to worse.
The infamous 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report was a transformative piece of study which had drawn global attention to India’s air quality. This report gave the media its headlines, the government its nightmares, and it cracked a whip on the pollution control board of the country. But the board and the government tried their best to downplay the report, citing myriad reasons from overestimation to stiff parameters followed by the WHO. Yet, the report opened a can of worms and it was soon followed up by a plethora of other studies from across the world, putting the abysmally poor quality of air in India on the world’s radar.
And, thus, ever since 2015, to share the growing concern back home about this, I must have written at least 50 press releases. The effort has been geared up to highlight the grim levels of air pollution and how it has been stretching over vast swathes of the country. And yet, how myopic has been our approach to limit poor air boundaries to a few cities alone, at the cost of whole geographies that were turning vulnerable. Myths about air pollution being seasonal and, thus, a come-and-gone phenomenon, were being perpetuated. More, importantly, the source of the pollution was being conveniently blurred by even consequential sections and also the powers-that-be.
I have seen the media responding to each and every material that we have been sending out. And as for the governments, whether Central or those in states, the reaction has mostly varied from downplaying to acknowledging our findings. But what I really still crave to see is an uproar – the people’s uproar and anger. An attitude and spirit that says, “I will not settle until I get the solution for this pollution.”
I myself struggle to make the right, or somewhat eco-savvy, choices. These include using public transport more frequently, though this is not unexceptionally the case. Car-pooling instead of solo driving and exclusive cab hiring serve as other options for me. These options are helpful for a burgeoning class of eco-friendly commuters. This can be the only humble effort on my part to contribute a wee bit and avoid adding an extra emission percentage to the air. Let me put a disclaimer here — transport and vehicles are only one of the sources of air pollution and there are many other sources like emission from industries, power generation plants, construction activity, agricultural and waste burning, etc.
We need preventive and long-term solutions instead of knee-jerk responses or short-term measures to take on air pollution. The National Clean Air Programme is worth appreciating but we need to urgently notify it and also bring it into immediate compliance. The government mainly makes policy and its implementation and compliance always remains a challenge. So, instead of rejoicing over the announcement of a clean air programme, this deserves an unwavering resolve and solid strategy for its time-bound implementation.
I often introspect – why do we get so susceptible about the implementation part of important policies? And the more I think about the air in our environment and how it has been getting venomous because of pollution, the more I am convinced that this is the prime issue before us. And thus, it should be given the importance that it deserves. This is related to our right to life and well-being that the Constitution guarantees us. We, the people, should not remain silent over this. Let the future be the point of focus instead of the past. More so in the 21st century and in the year 2018.