As Delhi gears up for its government’s Graded Response Action Plan to kick in with the onset of winter pollution, it is time to ask some hard questions. Already, the use of diesel generator sets in residential areas has been banned, which begs the obvious question ~ why would they even be needed if the state and its agencies fulfil their primary task of providing power efficiently and without interruption? Power distribution was handed over to private entities a few years ago, and it is necessary they be taken to task for even the briefest interruption in supply.

Just as power tariffs go up exponentially with use, penalties on discoms through graded reductions in tariff must be introduced to penalise breakdowns in supply, with the greatest reductions for the longest disruptions. If these entities find their bottom lines challenged, they will ensure that no DG sets are needed.

Next, the ban on DG sets applies only to the territorial jurisdiction of the Delhi government, and is not in force in adjacent areas such as Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad that wish to partake of the infrastructural elitism of the national capital region but will not pay the price in terms of restrictions. This is manifestly unjust and presumes that pollutants accept territorial boundaries. It is galling that while Haryana’s villages (and those in Punjab) are at least substantially responsible for Delhi’s poor air quality, towns in these states should escape the crackdowns that their victims in Delhi routinely confront.

Considering the nature of the problem, it really was for the Centre to have adopted a national action plan and cracked down on errant states, rather than leave it to Delhi’s government to bear the brunt of these miseries. It is unfortunate that differences in political dispensations should have manufactured this impasse and it is undeniable that the blame for this must lie majorly with the Central government which ought to have played the role of an unbiased arbiter. Vehicular pollution is another major contributor.

Delhi’s Traffic Police, whose primary task ought to be to regulate traffic, and only then to penalise transgressions has its priorities utterly mixed up. Unlike Kolkata and Mumbai, where traffic policemen are found at all major ~ and many minor ~ intersections and regulate traffic flows on roads far more constricted than in the capital, Delhi’s policemen are seen mostly in huddles of two or more, lurking behind trees and bushes to pounce on those driving without helmets or without seatbelts, their primary aim being to add to the state’s coffers or their own.

When traffic snarls occur, as they do frequently on all major thoroughfares, they fetch up only after the problem has reached mammoth proportions, whilst their presence at suspect spots might well have stopped the problem from escalating. As Delhi’s winter woes mount, it is time for its citizens to ask why they are being asked to pay such a heavy price for the incompetence of rulers, their own and those of neighbouring states.