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Diwali Celebrations and a Nation of Hypocrites

October 25, 2016

Is Diwali turning us into hypocrites?

Barack Obama visited New Delhi during 2015 and at that time the US Embassy had bought around 1800 indoor air purifiers in order to safeguard its employees. The news sparked off plenty of negative emotions among the common people as well as the higher-ups in the capital city. The citizens were disgusted at what they felt was lack of sufficient action from the state government to keep the city clean. The bureaucrats and politicians expressed dismay at what they perceived was an unfair comparison of Delhi with Beijing, known to be one of the most polluted cities in the world, especially by the Western media.

Reports on Delhi’s air quality

Many Indian and International research organisations and newspapers have reported about Delhi’s air pollution woes and the alarming levels of toxic chemicals in city’s air; and this is neither a work of fiction nor an attempt to malign the national capital as many would like to believe. It is a hard and a harsh ‘fact’. Even statistics such as the real-time air quality index of the city support such a statement.

The air quality index of Delhi was calculated on October 23, 2016 by SAFAR and the Central Pollution Control Board and it was found to be 318, which indicates a zone of high danger. Any air quality index that is in excess of 300 is supposed to be really poor. However, this is not where the problem ends.

US measurements

The US Embassy is located at Chanakyapuri, which is supposed to be one of the areas in Delhi that have far more trees and is comparatively cleaner. The embassy’s readings indicate that even in these comparatively better-off regions of the city the quality of air is rather unhealthy.

A worsening situation

What is further worse is that we are only a few days away from Diwali, which will herald the coming of winter, but the situation has already become quite critical. It is common knowledge that people fall ill when exposed to poor-quality air, as is the case in the national capital. The Delhi Government collects data on a regular basis but it never issues health alerts for the benefit of its citizens.

What could happen with alerts? Examples from other countries

Alerts can be extremely helpful in mitigating the days with worst air quality situations. In places such as Beijing, when red alerts are announced the schools are closed, government cars are pulled off from the roads, and industries that pollute are shut down. In the US, people are discouraged from using their cars to commute and industrial units are instructed to bring down their emissions, when the air quality is at its worst. While it is good to keep a track of the situation, it is also important to take follow-up action; otherwise, such monitoring becomes meaningless.

How can Diwali be a good start?

Perhaps if the administration of Delhi, as well as the National Capital Region, was serious about improving things then Diwali could have been the perfect occasion. For example, it could have:

– banned people from bursting crackers on any day other than the main festival itself and taken steps to enforce the ban;
– prohibited the sale and buying of such goods throughout the festive month;
– done away with crackers that emit sound and just limited it to the ones that emit light.

However, nothing has actually happened and going by the way things are normally handled, one wonders if anything will happen at all. The government has tried measures such as the odd and even rule and banning of Chinese crackers, which because of their inferior ingredients contribute to a greater extent to air pollution as compared to their Indian counterparts.

What role can the people play?

People who live in Delhi as well as other cities and towns with high degrees of pollution expect the government to make sure that the air remains clean in spite of what they do. They may keep blaring away horns, wasting energy such as electricity, water, and petrol, pollute each and every thing around them in any way that they see fit, and yet they would expect the brunt of their actions to be borne by the administrators.

Such expectations reek of hypocrisy and are worthy of the highest levels of contempt at the very least. Why should any responsible individual even think that anyone else will cover up for the wrongs committed by him? Unfortunately, that’s the case, more often than not.

The question is, do these people have any right whatsoever to expect clean air when they themselves do so much to pollute it.

Why is there a lack of interest among them when it comes to leading by example in such cases?

Why, in spite of having received the best-possible education, they fail to understand the harmful after-effects of their actions?

They really need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask if it is really that hard to say ‘No’ to crackers and instead celebrate Diwali only with lights as it is supposed to be.

Is it really that hard to think of the helpless children who suffer from asthma and have to be shifted to hospitals at the time of Diwali?

Is it really impossible to be compassionate towards the old and sick individuals who feel palpitations every time one of those small bombs go off?

Even if such people do not concern them what about their own children who could be affected because of the pollution? What about their own health? Is having fun that important, so much so that words like ‘discipline’ and ‘care’ become meaningless? The answers to these questions could go a long way in determining how things shape up in the future.

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I am from Kolkata. Like any other Bengali I love my fish, eggs and bhaat and sweets but I also feel proud to be a part of the biggest melting pot of the world - India. It is true that I need to go a long way before I finally call it a day but I have come some way and am sure will travel further. Cheers :)

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Dear Sirs,
Reading your paper on Delhi’s air quality incites me to suggest the reading of the SEA page aida-sea.fr/urban-transport/ on how the transport-related urban pollution (with congestion and several other nuisances) issue can be solved pretty quickly, without resorting to billions in investments and decades of waiting. Keeping in mind that the billions and decades will not solve the problem eventually, and I explain why, too.
NB. SEA is at present competing to bring this to Gurgaon.
Hope that helps.
PO

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