It seemed another world, perhaps in another eon, about which the Hindi poet Dharamvir Bharati wrote his poem ‘November’s afternoon’—Apne halke-fulke sparshon se chhoo jaati hai/Georgette ke peele palle-si yeh dopahar November ki (It touches me with its soothing caresses/Like the Georgette saree’s yellow border, this November afternoon). A world in which men and women enjoyed the rhymes of weathers and the rhythms of their tidings. That world, alas, no longer exists. What we have instead is a muddle, further muddied incessantly and relentlessly by unconscionable politicians. November, a month that not long ago was relished by the people of Delhi, has become an ordeal. November is the cruelest month.
It is like a horror movie getting replayed in the national Capital after the last year. Air pollution soared to ‘severe’ or the worst level on Tuesday. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reported that the air quality index (AQI) for Delhi was 448 at 4 p.m., making it dangerous even for healthy people. While there were variations in toxicity levels at different places, PM2.5, which is small enough to get entrenched in lungs, was many times over the tolerable standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3). At Anand Vihar, it went up to 732 ug/m3 at 7.10 p.m. Wednesday proved to be worse, with AQI crossing the 1,000 mark.
It was the repeat of the last year’s ordeal, even in terms of politicians’ reactions. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed Delhi a gas chamber on Monday. “Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of the year. We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states,” he said. Last year, too, he had said the same thing.
Ditto with others. The courts and the National Green Tribunal had slammed the national and state governments for their inaction. There were meetings, high-level talks, expert opinion, big promises. Stubble burning will be stopped, there would be interstate cooperation, better planning would be there to check smog; etcetera, etcetera. To no avail. Nobody has done anything.
Just look at what the Central government’s response to the colossal problem. Its functionaries are too busy defending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quixotic demonetization decision last year and strategizing for the forthcoming state elections to bother about such trivialities as the lives of millions of people living in the national Capital region (NCR). So, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan resorted to spewing platitudes and running commentary. “Every possible step required to tackle the situation has been already identified, and the need of the hour is to put them into action,” said in a message on social network Twitter.
“Every possible step” identified? But the crisis is on, Mr. Minister, what are you waiting for? When will the measures that have been identified be implemented? And what on earth is “the need of the hour is to put them into action”? Are you an editorialist writing a newspaper article? The Indian Medical Association has said that Delhi is witnessing a “public health emergency.” Medical experts are advising people to stay indoors; schools have been shut; people are comparing the national Capital with the Holocaust. And our political masters have just identified possible steps!
In a way, this is not surprising. The prime concern of the Prime Minister is fighting and winning elections; as for governance, he seems to believe that a mélange of event management and messaging is a good substitute. His ministers and state government follow suit. Opposition leaders are little better. Kejriwal, instead of working in tandem with the Central government in this life-and-death situation, is still busy settling scores with his political opponents. His deputy, Manish Sisodia, is a wise man: he is on an official trip to Europe, far from the maddening and infuriating smog of Delhi. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his party colleagues are taking potshots at Modi.
Everybody is busy, fighting their petty battles, even as the giant, ferocious monster, smog, threatens to guzzle the national Capital. The threat is not only to the nobodies like you and me, but also to the persons of politicians and their family members. Even then they refuse to wake up to the real problems and fight them realistically. Their politics has not only killed their conscience but also their survival instinct.
Meanwhile a beautiful month has died. There will never be a poet—or, for that matter anybody else—savoring the caresses of a November afternoon.
P.S.: There may be a demand from Modi-bhaktas for a ban on Bharati’s poem ‘November’s afternoon’ as it shows the Prime Minister in a bad light.
Picture courtesy: flickr.com