The air of Delhi versus the airs of Delhi

Shivaji Dasgupta
04 Nov 2022
The air of Delhi versus the airs of Delhi

Since the days of Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Delhi has had its share of lofty airs. Although, I am not quite sure when the filthy air of Delhi became a mass murderer.

On the subject of elevated airs, the capital has always been a fine masterclass. In the whitewashed central political district, aggressive entitlement is the stock in trade. This is brought to life elegantly in the Delhi Gymkhana Club, IIC and its kindred institutes, and perhaps more affirmatively in the corridors of power. While in newer-vintage Gurgaon and Noida, hard-earned merit may well be the conduit but the expressions of arrival are charmingly emulated.

But this matter of ill-tempered air is hardly a laughing matter, and this I know from first-breath evidence. Many children in the zone grow up on a steady diet of Levolin and Budecort, steroids which are administered through high-tech nebulizers. Stuff as such is usually associated with geriatrics or the pulmonary infirm, but in North India is akin to rice and dal.

Even in 2022, the pattern is largely undisturbed, as the 400-plus AQI scores vie relentlessly with modern-day ODI targets. Everybody, including the IIT-educated Kejriwal seems to know who the culprits are, but a mechanism for detention has not yet been legislated. The stubble burning in Punjab features as the Gabbar Singh of the piece, apparently a logistical necessity, but there are no Jai and Veeru in cohesive sight. To add, the temperamental pace of winds and the considerable industrial pollution in the NCR aided the debacle, but as side actors.

While closing schools and regulating traffic are SOP measures, perhaps a lot more needs to be done. As, most certainly, the astrological lifespan of residents in the area may well be reviewed due to these warlike conditions. Even more distressingly, a close few who we lost due to covid may have had their immunity systems crucially underperforming due to this infiltration of foul air, and of this, I am fairly certain.

But then, affluent Indians have developed the gated mindset, and this is a source of delight and possibly an agent of doom, Which is exactly why the sale of air purifiers is growing like Surya Kumar Yadav’s T20 strike rate, while burglar-proof homes attempt to include the intrepid invisible intruder. These are truthfully private initiatives while the policy-level interventions must gatecrash the party, in implementable regalia.

This actually begins with a conscious, and not airy-fairy, awareness that the AQI abrasions are nothing short of being carcinogenic and we need to act. Else it will become an unidentifiable assassin, the mystery factor in an otherwise positive prognosis of many significant conditions. While seemingly patently obvious, it is possibly a pipedream as Indians being Indians, we prefer coffee with destiny to a fencing duel with reality.

Just today, Arvind Kejriwal tried to occupy a high ground by terming the terminating condition as a ‘North India’ problem, in an attempt possibly to safeguard the credentials of his Punjab Government. While truthfully, it is a Pan- India issue, as Delhi is inarguably the national capital representing our finest facade, logically housing the best minds in the nation. A self-inflicted gas chamber regime may not be a great playing field, eventually dampening the development of the nation, as the brightest fellows become vulnerable carcasses.

Now look, some of the most insurmountable problems have been sorted due to positive reinforcement and perhaps that is the inspiration for Delhi. The Green Revolution orchestrated by Norman Borlaug was a sustainable innovation as was Verghese Kurien’s milk story, correcting significant nutrition dilemmas. Three decades back, as students, we squirmed about paper wastage but did see how beautifully the digital evolution eliminated the tyranny of the printed document. A vaccine sorted polio while the cure for the common cold seems to be in nerve-wracking sight, while many such perils are on the verge of meeting their nemesis.

In a strange way, the proud airs of Delhi can actually aid the clean-up of the morbid air of Delhi and do hear me out. The region needs an active resurgence of citizen pride, and a mass movement to influence every power to act as per sustainable protocol. This includes the state, the states, the private residents as well as industries - all actors in the larger puddle of assisted euthanasia. A potent case study can be the resurrection of Singapore’s river, today a hub of all things sugary from being a petty dumping ground. Perhaps, the potent cause ambassadors of the day can divert their cannons to this lively matter, as it’s life and death truthfully and not metaphorically.

If Lutyens could have a fair say, I suspect he would have arrived at an environmental solution to safeguard his architectural mastery. Those who thrive on both the airs and air of Delhi 2003 now must come to the party, provoking much-needed accountability.

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