Blowing Cold and Cold

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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It’s the season to complain about air pollution but at your own peril

WINTER’S HEAVY AIR is here and now the laments on Facebook and Twitter on the asphyxiation of cities. But don’t. However racking the cough, it is in your best interest to remain silent. If you are in Delhi, where habit makes it difficult to not join in the annual railing, still desist. Your cause might be just and as evidence you have the daily numbers of pollution in the air, but even so, don’t join the online clamour because all that will do is make your life even more miserable. The pollution is not going anywhere, the air will suffuse with more and more hazardous PM 2.5 particles, but in addition, you will have to walk to office for what is left after ‘Odd- Even’. In the face of a problem with no immediate solution, all governments will take meaningless action, one more contribution to the cup of the Indian citizen’s misery. They will blame these measures on you because you said this pollution was unbearable and so now bear with what is being done.

On November 1st, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that aggressive measures were needed and, as per an Indian Express report, promised a ‘slew of anti-pollution measures, including the use of sprinklers and mist fountains, smoke tappers in crematoriums, and waste management to minimise emission of methane gas caused by burning at landfill sites.’ All very good in intent, no doubt, and none of which has any hope of eliminating the pollution. Because if that could be done merely by making a policy on paper, then India should be the cleanest land on earth going by the Swachh Bharat formula of the Prime Minister where each one would nominate ten others and soon by geometric progression, the country would be full of people sweeping and cleaning itself clean. Nothing like that has come to pass because human behaviour is not moulded so easily.

The clean air of Western societies is a function of being rich and politically mature early. Eventually, barring extreme catastrophes, there will be development of civic sense, efficient executive action and resources to reduce pollution in India. For instance, you remove old diesel vehicles from Indian roads, inflation goes up, making food more expensive in a country where hundreds of millions are below the poverty line. Is that a price we can pay for clean air? There is really no instant fix. You can have ideals to move towards, but the journey is slow and painful. Till then, those who can afford it, make do with air purifiers at home instead of yearning for clean air over the skies. If too many ask for something very loudly, politicians will go in search of silver bullets, making bad worse. In his slew of measures, Sisodia was silent on the Odd-Even scheme. But it is waiting in the wings, like a trump card no one wants to use.