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These are the days of smog tales. The National Capital Region (NCR) is not alone in reciting the stories of breathlessness, gasping, lung congestion and deaths - these do occur in quite good numbers but largely go unnoticed as these are termed as hospital deaths.

From Lahore to the plains of Western Uttar Pradesh, people get to choke this season as the paddy stacks go up in flames in the plains of Punjab and Haryana. The seasonal hazard is not the making of the farmers alone. These are the two States that thrived on the green revolution. Unfortunately, not a single government developed a holistic approach from sowing to harvesting. The crux of the matter is stubble. The window for the farmers planning to sow wheat after harvesting paddy is very short, just about three weeks. Unlike in the South, the farmers of North India do not depend on the stubble for feeding their animals as they fall back on other crops like wheat, jowar, bajra, sugarcane and others for the same. Hence, paddy straw is left to burn in this season making it a political slugfest.

The Aam Aadmi Party Government of Delhi which initially blamed the two neighbouring States for the burning issue, realised soon enough that its political interests there would be singed and hence, changed tack seeking a regional cooperation. Ruling parties too jumped into the fray blaming the Centre finally for not acting. This politicisation, whether it leads to a solution, is to be seen. But this certainly gives an opportunity for the Centre to launch its intervention. It should start exploring the technological fixes while addressing the environmental concerns. It has started doing the same with its 'Namami Gange' project for cleansing the River Ganges. The project has taken into consideration every aspect of pollution and has chalked a way out for cleaning the River.

Similarly, this smog problem has to be dealt with at various levels. Apart from the stubble menace, there is the rubble menace of the capital too. Perhaps, all construction work should be stopped during this period. The dust from these building work is no small affair. Then there are industries that keep spewing toxic gases day in and day out, all around Delhi. There is no stopping them. Use of charcoal in the hotels and dhabas of the Capital – an estimate says more than 2,000 – should be stopped.

Introducing Odd-Even alone would not help curb the problem. Turbo Happy Seeders must be pressed into service along with the Super Straw Management System developed by the agriculture scientists to help the farmers in a cost-effective manner.

Swachh Bharat will be a mirage if thousands keep perishing every year due to pollution. Alas, with three different parties ruling three different States, the challenge seems to be insurmountable! All these parties do need the votes of the cities as well as the rural areas. Moreover, all are into choke-throat politics here. Will wisdom prevail? It is time all governments get together in true federal spirit. Desperate times need desperate measures, after all!


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A shocking tragedy