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Words like climate change, green house syndrome and Kyoto Protocol appear to have no bearing on the minds of Indian authorities, whose responsibility it is to make the lives of the citizens more livable. Today, the entire nation is expressing concern over the health emergency situation that prevails in Delhi, which is not only ringing alarm bells but also spreading a fear-psychosis all over. The killer smog-haze intensified by smoke or other atmospheric pollutants-is back to wreak havoc. It has blanketed the entire National Capital Region (NCR).

The recurrence of smog is symptomatic of the toxic indifference of the powers-that-be, which has given birth to this man-made and easily avoidable catastrophe. The apathy of the officials needs to be condemned in no uncertain terms because they have become oblivious of the agonising travails of the people. That is criminal negligence of the worst order. It was way back in 2008 that a Harvard University Study came up with a startling reality – around 40 per cent of denizens in the city were suffering from respiratory ailments because authorities gave a damn to the well-being of the people living in the national capital. Six years later, a WHO survey pointed out that 13 Indian cities were among the 20 most polluted in the world.

The toxic chamber aka Delhi had the dubious distinction of being the worst of the lot!  A World Bank study in 2013 observed that pollution-related health damages were costing India about one per cent of its GDP.  The tragic irony is that all these findings have fallen on deaf ears. Rather than spring into action, the policy makers have turned a blind eye, which has resulted in smog assuming fatalistic proportions. Remedial measures have been suggested by Supreme Court-appointed panels, including a decade-and-half ruling that mandated introduction of CNG in public transport system.

Though belated, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is gradually getting down to business like ordering closure of educational institutions, a five-day ban on construction and demolition activities. For all the talks with neighbouring states over burning of crop residue, stubble, it is a fact that pollutants and toxic gases, emanating from industrial units, vehicles, generators and power plants are sure shot recipes for disaster. The odd-even scheme for vehicles lasted exactly a year. 

Severity of the situation is discernible as PM 2.5 and PM10 levels are at an all-time high. The concrete jungle that Delhi is traps pollutants that hang like the Sword of Damocles.  Sadly, for all their electioneering blabber, no leader talks of the menace or on how to tackle the life-threatening pollution levels. It has become a health risk to even breathe in and around Delhi.   

The Modi government, which champions Swachh Bharat movement, should also recognise that people do have an undeclared right to health and, in turn, to clean air. The culprits can be nailed if stringent laws and punitive measures are implemented.  Given this sordid situation, don’t blame tourists and potential investors if they shy away from Delhi or even India!