Breathe Easy

I had written this post for some other blog last year (2015). Things are the same this year or actually even worse than last year. 

Turn off your car and turn on your brains

So the high court judge in Delhi expressed his displeasure for the growing pollution and said that he feels like Delhi is turning into a gas chamber, making it difficult for people to live in the city. In the wake of that remark the government is coming out with some slightly bizarre solutions such as allowing only odd or even numbered cars out on some days. It’s not even a law yet and people have already come out with solutions, so in my cynical head I don’t think that that law is going to work but it just goes to show the situation is so desperate that the government and law makers are ready to do almost anything. They might be politicians with self-interest and heightened sense of self-worth but in this case their situation is like Jerry McGuire’s trying to appeal to Tidwell in the locker room and screaming “HELP ME TO HELP YOU” while just like Tidwell we are laughing at their faces.

This air pollution problem is not new. Delhi has the problem of unclean air all year round. The sudden hullabaloo is because with the onset of winter the smog has risen. It is very difficult to live with that level of exposure to pollution and particulate matter in the air. For example in Punjabi Bagh area particulate matter below 10 µg was 519 µg/m3 unlike the prescribed limit of 100 and Particulate Matter below 2.5 µg was 349 µg/m3 unlike the limit of 60 (data from Delhi Pollution Control committee for 6th Dec 2015). Anyone can see these figures and feel like something is not right here. And for the reader’s information, no amount of wrapping your head with scarves and handkerchiefs is going to prevent the entry of these particulate matters in your lungs and damaging your body. What you need is a specially designed mask (and of course less air pollution).

Don’t you wonder who is to blame here? The people blame the government and the government blames the people for non-cooperation. I am apolitical most of the time but on this issue I am with the government. We, the people of Delhi, have a syndrome called “showing off”. We love our convenience and love rubbing the noses of everyone in our affluence. We get a big salary, we buy a big car; we get a promotion, we buy an even bigger car; and when we become the head of the company, we go to the limit of buying the biggest car falling short of buying a bus or truck. It is immaterial that we can’t park it, we can’t maintain it and we invariably end up being late for work because of the traffic. Who cares? For the momentary pleasure of flaunting, we can suffer the mind numbing rush hour traffic and we don’t worry about the outside air because a good car is bound to come with the privilege of clean cool air. The stories of 8 hours traffic in some part of Delhi-NCR are so unsurprising that we just laugh it off with a sad shrug and a “hota hai” look (sh** happens). There are genuine problems for some people in using public transport, I agree, such as women concerned for their safety and people with long working hours who can’t rely on public transport in the late evening. But those examples are fewer than those who have the option and yet don’t choose to go the other way. I would like to suggest that they take a hard look at their way of life and try and contribute to keep their city clean if not for the government then for their own family who unfortunately has to breathe the same air as the sick man on the street corner and the auto rickshaw driver plying through the traffic throughout the day.

While Delhi is not the only major city grappling with the pollution issue (Mumbai, Amritsar, Beijing, Cairo etc. are also dealing with such problems), Delhi is the only one putting up a fight against reality and unable to come to terms with the problem. Nothing is a problem unless it’s a problem for the rich and nothing is ever a problem for the rice because money can buy an alternative. So we have our own Catch 22 going on here.

I want to waste a little of my breath (I have only a few good ones left because I stay in Delhi) discussing the most obvious solutions like higher percentage of public using public transport, emission taxes and reduction incentives, making companies responsible for providing a transport to and fro for the employees, keeping polluting vehicles off the road, and strictly implementing all of the above (no tolerance for “janta hai mera baap kaun hai” type thugs). In this regard, the past few days have seen ample of articles been written on the same but I would say this….unless Delhiites wake up and smell the polluted air, nothing is going to come off the laws made for pollution prevention because God knows, Delhiites have a “solution” to every problem.


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