Thousands In Delhi Are Coming Out, Demanding Political Action To Curb Pollution

As of November 1, a public health emergency was declared in the National Capital Region. The annual post-Diwali worsening of Delhi’s AQI (air quality index) spiked hugely – causing alarm and outrage.

Those who’ve spent the last few years in Delhi, however, know that this time of year is to be expected, much like the peak of winter or summer. Perhaps that is what characterises how the authorities respond to it as well.

Each year, a specific variant of the blame game overtakes news coverage as smog, increased air pollution and and a spike in respiratory problems is reported. This year too, the Delhi government has pointed fingers at neighbouring states Punjab and Haryana, asking for details on their stubble burning timelines.

What is to be noted however, is how a paradox is continuously adopted to present a sense of damage control. Say for example, this year, crackers were burnt despite an actual ban on firecrackers, and a week after Diwali, Delhi was thrust under the odd-even scheme yet again.

While these measures may or may not be commendable, none of them are sustainable solutions. Each step almost depends on the frequency of the other. Is it any wonder, then, that each year, we repeat the cycle?

The buck doesn’t stop here. Now, the problem of Delhi’s polluted air has gone beyond what the government chooses to do and not to do.

“We know what sources of pollution exist – stubble burning, construction work, roadside dust. Each year, the state level governments and bodies keep blaming each other, as a result of which Delhi doesn’t have a comprehensive plan to combat air pollution. It’s so unfortunate that thousands and thousands of children are falling sick every day, and our political class is just busy fighting with each other,” says environmentalist Vimlendu Jha.

Delhi is angry. Year after year, the same story is spun round and fed to citizens, almost as a peacekeeping measure. Should one have to fight to demand a solution for what is so clearly an encompassing public problem? Is your friend really kidding when they say we’re living the dystopian novels we grew up reading?

“What we’re saying is enough is enough. I think it’s very important that all political stakeholders come together in a room, have a conversation, solve the problem. All of them claim they have done enough. If they had done enough, this would not be the condition as grim as it is today, or for the past week, or for the past few years,” adds Vimlendu Jha.

The internet is dealing with this travesty the best way they know how – memes. But what those in power fail to understand is that under this defense mechanism, there is deep outrage. Imagine being handed over the responsibility of a world where you’re deep in debt, the planet will cease to exist as you know it, and the economic crisis is blamed on your car-pooling habits!

Every day, nearly 80 people lose their lives due to poor air in the NCR. Today’s protest is to call out the political class and their age-old method of dealing with a serious issue. It is against callous behaviour on part of the state as well as the central government, and to demand swift and sustainable action. Everyone in the city has the right to breathe.

The mass protest is to be held from 7-9 pm tonight at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate. For more details, click here.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Anindito Mukherjee for Reuters.
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