We are all accustomed to letters that start with an almost compulsive ‘how are you’? but I choose not to ask you this question because I am aware of the situation that you are finding yourself in. I must confess that although I am feeling extremely pained to see the capital of India in such a miserable state yet I must confess that looking at the unsustainable growth patterns in the city especially over the last two decades I was quite convinced that this was coming your way. Today newspapers from across the country are filled with reports that suggest the alarming levels of pollution in the air and the myriad diseases that it has brought along with it. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that Delhi has indeed become a dangerous place to live in and if we do not take radical measures to curb this problem we might be collectively embracing death very soon!
You must be suffering from blocked nose, cough and cold and a perpetual sense of strained breath because of the ongoing smog and given this alarming level of pollution it seems like we are living in a gas chamber which would ultimately choke us all to death. Today it has become hard to breathe and while some fortunate people with abundant economic resources have already escaped the boundaries of this ghastly situation the masses have had to stay back and suffer. Every day I hear cases of infants being born in hospitals in the city and needing immediate oxygen to cope with the very nasty welcome that the inhabitants of planet earth had planned for them and what is left to say of the elderly and the sick as they too have had to pay the price for the greedy and selfish model of development and smart city that we have for so long celebrated! I know that we wish to protect our children from this heavily polluted ambience and thus schools are being shut down but let us ask if keeping our children away from schools or studies can really be the viable option in the long run? Yes, temporarily the child may not have to breath the particulate matter and the poisonous gasses in the air outside but how clean can the air indoors remain when that outside is so unhealthy and dirty? What makes me sad is that whenever I turn on my television set to find out what the political leaders are saying about the crisis or if they are working on some new policy to take matters into hand, what I come across is a noisy, heated and uncivil argument where mutual blaming seems to be the only agenda. Half the time I cannot hear anybody speak as the newsreader sits comfortably after having ignited a TRP generating debate!
This condition is worsened by the fact that not only is it being seen as a brilliant opportunity by all political parties to shift the blame on each other but the market has begun to capitalize on this grave moment by offering lucrative personalized options. Today while I see soap, fairness cream and Dalda being advertised on tv I also simultaneously see masks and air purifiers being advertised in the same tone! I am afraid there may soon be a time when wearing a mask to protect oneself from pollution may become a mandatory showcase of patriotic love or the proof of one’s nationalism! But on a more serious note we must ask whether air purifiers can be the solution to our collective problems or if air purifiers indoors might not lead to even further polluted air outdoors?
I hear they want to start the odd-even scheme but are facing public resistance based on claims of inconvenience or the lack of public transport. But what about our own duties to limit our cars, to learn to manage without or at least with lesser plastics, gadgets, energy consuming devices? Unless we minimize our own day to day needs how far can external solutions help? We must do our on little part in contributing towards a cleaner environment and this begins by reducing consumption on the individual scale. This needs a realization that the market will only aim at lucratively packaging commodities to break the force of collective mobilization and dissent. Today some select people will buy purifiers and breath supposedly clean air but what about those who will remain outdoors or even indoors without such inventions of technology. Surely this is not the solution and a path towards collective welfare must be found. See the paradox in these critical circumstances, after having successfully polluted the earth some of our fellow human beings have booked their tickets to Mars? It is hard to believe this audacity but the truth cannot be denied. After destroying this beautiful planet we are proceeding towards a new one perhaps to give it the same destiny that we gave to the earth?
I believe that at this juncture we need critical thinking. We need to take the responsibility for the existing condition of Delhi. The situation that we find ourselves in today proves that our narcissism, technological obsession, greed, the cumulative culture of consumption, unlimited wants and the growing disconnectedness with nature has brought about this situation. If we really wish to alter and change the condition we must move towards a collectively outlook that aims towards inclusive and sustainable solutions. The ugly blame game, the manipulative vote bank politics that is afraid of radical transformation, the collective insensitivity to environment, untamed desire for technological comforts at the cost of others have brought us face to face with this challenging moment. It is sad that each time we step out of our homes we choke and our eyes burn; we may install an air purifier or wear a mask but is that really a sustainable solution? It’s like saying that the water tank will not be cleaned ever but each time one has jaundice they will have access to antibiotics! I pray and hope that you, my friend Delhiite will regain your sensibility and work towards changing this ugly problem you are suffering from. I can only wish you the very best for this difficult but extremely urgent task.
Editor/ The New Leam