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Noxious neglect

Editorial |

There is little “capital” to a city condemned to breathe putrid air as a result of the collective failure of elected governments, bureaucrats, expert panels ~ and even the judiciary to an extent ~ to mount a concerted exercise to counter the pollution that literally chokes at this time of the year.

Every year. The slew of emergency measures announced on Tuesday by authorities, at various levels, is not merely a case of too-little too-late, but one of “shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted”.

The falling air-quality has been palpable for days, even the Indian Medical Association had sounded an alert, but with the Delhi government battling it out with the Centre in the apex court over who has greater clout, and the latter much too concerned with winning elections in Himachal and Gujarat, pollution levels attracted minimal priority. That is the price the citizen pays for an overlypoliticised system of “governance”.

The closure of primary schools, enhanced parking fees etc are, at best, temporary measures. That despite a Supreme Court mandated environment management panel, and a whip-cracking National Green Tribunal the situation has thus deteriorated reflects a lack of commitment to the well-being of the common man ~ particularly when he has no upcoming date with the EVM. All the shrieking about stubble-burning in areas contiguous to the National Capital Region rings hollow ~ what efforts did Krishi Bhawan make to promote alternative farm practices?

And since both Haryana and UP are “BJP-ruled” there can be little excuse for farmers being permitted to get away with activity just a few steps short of the criminal. The proposal to ban the entry of trucks into the NCR is another short-cut, the “by-passes” to the sprawling urban jungle are still far from complete.

Pressing for additional Metro services falls in the same category: public transport services are woefully inadequate, indeed the depleted fleet of the DTC militates against reviving the Odd-Even scheme, which might have helped avert an accumulation of pollutants had it been done a couple of weeks earlier.

And the very fanciful “helicopter water spraying” is being quibbled over by the Central and Delhi governments. It would be tempting to ask why the environment minister cannot cut short his foreign junket and return to manage the crisis ~ except for the reality that he lacks the capacity to “deliver” anything. Arvind Kejriwal seeks cheap publicity by dubbing the city a “gas chamber”: the other “one-man show” on Raisina Hill has yet to comment.

But surely a sense of shame should have “descended” when a visiting dignitary had to strain his eyes to perceive the Guard of Honour being presented to him in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

It projected a negative “image” that no amount of sloganeering can erase.