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Stubble burning choking Delhi? But why none is talking of highly polluted Yamuna water?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

As the #Diwali festival comes nearer, sarkari environmentalists get active in Delhi about the 'state of air pollution' in the National Capital Region. The darbaris had been busy in 'reporting' from Israel but now they have got enough matter of 'public importance' to report.
A few days back, I had visited Delhi's Signature Bridge to see the state of river Yamuna. I was aghast to see it. It was not a river, which I had seen in Yamunotri, Badkot, Naugaon and Kalsi, Uttarakhand, where it shines and look sublimely serene. Yamuna, which was a river where civilisation grew and on her bank were cremated our national icons like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and many others.
Yamuna that must have been beautiful when passing by next to the Red Fort. Yamuna's bank had a bird sanctuary in Okhla. But I was not shocked to see that a sewage line was passing through the river. It was worst than gutter. At the Kalindi Kunj, the Yamuna looked pathetically dangerous. There is foam in it and I felt deeply ashamed of it. The river passes through Kalindi Kunj to travel to Mathura and then Agra. Between Delhi and Agra, the Yamuna river is mostly sewer waste.
I mention the story of Yamuna because, today, when we are discussing air pollution of Delhi, experts are blaming the farmers for burning stubble. And this has become the circus of the middle classes too. In the train, when this issue came up for discussion, it was suggested, Anand Vihar had the worst AQIs. Yet, the fact is don't have the equipment to project this worst.
A gentlemen, said all this air pollution is due to Punjab farmers burning stubble. Another said that the fire crackers will also add to it. The other guy was not ready to say that fire crackers contribute to pollution. He added, there is a conspiracy to blame it on fire crackers and not on stubble burning.
The point is whether Delhi's pollution woes are merely stubble burning? Why is that no politician including Arvind Kejriwal does not want to ask any questions? Blaming farmers for the misdeeds of the political elite of Delhi is the easiest thing today.
I do not say the stubble burning does not contribute to pollution, but what is more important is that Delhi's vehicular pollution, industries, uncontrolled construction work, destruction etc. cannot be discounted. Obviously, you cannot ignore the fire crackers for increasing the pollution.
The problem is, fire crackers are allowed to burst after Dussehra. Netas would not speak about it because it amount to 'hurting the sentiments' of the people. Also today's political class protects business interests. The festival gives them the opportunity to sale their product, hence they won't ever say stop fire crackers. It is this very reason why our experts never say that there should be a limit on having private vehicles.
Often people blame that festivals like Karwa Chowth or Raksha Bandhan have limited appeal, but now they have become big on TV screen, and all due to marketing. Market has nothing to do with 'social change'. Market is there to sell products even if it glorify the idiotic superstitious patriarchal ideas.
For them, money is important. Markets are there to help the money-dominate media, which in turn makes the most mediocre people as 'experts' and impose its views in the name of 'public interest'.
Media is nothing but building up narrative and legitimising the misdeeds of the power elite. Media has nothing to do with public good. Their public good is basically serving the business interests of those who keep them on hefty payrolls.
Now, one can ask the simple question, that if they think that farmers of Punjab are polluting Delhi's air, then who is polluting the beautiful Yamuna? Who has converted Yamuna into a sewage line? Should we not ask these questions to the industries whose wastes are being flown into the river. Delhi needs fresh air but also fresh water and fresh river. Where is the concern?
The public good has been converted to pampering blind religious beliefs. Public good is not clean air and clean water but ensuring that Chhutth Puja is done in the filthy rivers. How can people think of venturing into the Yamuna water in Delhi which is so polluted? You will see how our netas will go and take photographs and people will wash their 'sins' in rivers without ever showing a concern on the state of India's most polluted rivers.
One can ask the simple question, if they think that farmers of Punjab are polluting Delhi's air, then who is polluting beautiful Yamuna?
The point is whether we have become so cynical that thinking has simply gone over our head. Perhaps, religious values have made us believe that everything is created by God, that the Most Omnipotent and Powerful will create new rivers if the current ones dry up.
Our netas have no interest in making our young students think, have scientific thought and rational thinking. In the name of culture, we are creating a crowd of illiterates who do not bother about declining state of our air and water.
On the Signature Bridge, which was said to be the 'signature' of 21st Century Delhi, I saw horrible state of affairs. It was so dirty. People were stopping their vehicles and have no shame in throwing their garbage so openly in Yamuna.
Our festivals have become the biggest source of spreading pollution. Celebrate them, but can't we celebrate it in a better way? Why do we need to celebrate it in such a way that spreads pollution? How is a festival great if it spreads pollution? Can't we celebrate Diwali with greetings and spreading love and affection, going out in open and enjoy the neighbourhood?
Why can't our people who go to river to worship on Chhath can ask the government to clean the river? Why people don't decide that they will not throw garbage in the river? There is reason to believe that there is not one reason of water and air pollution. There is no point ub doing whereaboutary on these issues. We all contribute to making our air and water filthy, and we need to now seriously think as what are we leaving for our future generations?
Just compare Delhi to any of the global cities like London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, Vienna, Budapest etc. and think where do we stand. Most of these European capitals have beautiful rivers flowing through the city and it is a treat to be there and feel the power of nature. Delhi stand nowhere near any of these cities.
Yamuna was Delhi's most iconic possession but what has happened to it today? It is a drain and we are not ashamed of it. We are blaming each other without doing our bit, as politicians will never what is needed because business interests get hurt. It is time we think and act. Delhi need to get its air and water clean and people need to not only ask questions but also contribute their bit.
---
*Human rights defender

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