What is considered as the best way to be healthy, morning walk and physical activity, has become a health hazard, thanks to the poisonous smog conditions. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared the city in a ‘public health emergency state’ and as per the demand, State and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) have asked the schools to remain closed. But why we are talking only about Delhi? Yes, Delhi is the capital region so the news trail emerges from there. It is also true that the vehicle-generated and industrial pollution is also high in the National Capital Region, besides the problem of dust. All this has to be addressed and Delhi people have every right to breathe fresh air. Still, while addressing the issue we need to go beyond Delhi centricism and deal with the situation that has smogged our life.
The pollution level data shows that the patch of smog is developed over the entire Northern Region, starting from Punjab border to Patna in Bihar. Besides Delhi, Ghaziabad, Kanpur and Lucknow are also facing the high pollution levels with hazardous PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the air touching 500 mark, which should normally be around 60 as per Bharatiya climate. So there are many Delhis in the making and a large chunk of population is consuming unhealthy air, equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.
All this is happening when Deepawali is over with restrictions on crackers. The beginning of winter that coincided with Deepawali last year had created the same situation and entire blame was put on Deepawali celebrations.
The simple scientific logic tells us that the cold air is heavier than warm air and tends to get sandwiched between the ground and a layer of warmer air. Moisture in the air further concentrates it with pollutants trapped in the layer. The main reason for this is identified one. This is the end of crop season and farmers of Haryana and Punjab burn their crop stubble. Despite the Supreme Court’s interventions and strict guidelines, the Government machinery is not able to control this menace. The kind of mechanisation that is required for clearing this stubble is not there with the farmers, so they opt for the easier way, ‘burning’. The most unfortunate part is when the parts of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Western Uttar Pradesh are craving for fodder meant for their domestic animals; the same is burnt as stubble. While talking about cooperative and competitive federalism, unless we work on these critical issues, real results cannot be achieved as a nation.
Lastly, the ‘model of development’ we have adopted requires a scrutiny. Many thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Deendayal Upadhyaya coming from different ideological streams had warned us about the disastrous consequences of so-called modern civilisation rooted in the western ideas of ‘development’. The greed and exploitation based progress is leading us to regression. Unearthing of Panama and Paradise Papers is just tip of the iceberg of this mindless model of development. Unless we question it and devise the Swadeshi model based on our resources and needs, our life will remain up in smog.