In what corroborates the fact of the National Capital becoming unliveable given the rising pollution levels, a survey by online platform Local Circles has revealed that 40 per cent of Delhi-NCR residents want to shift to another city because of the rising pollution levels, while another 16 per cent want to travel out of the city during this period. Apart from this, 31 per cent of the respondents said that they would stay in Delhi-NCR but take measures, such as equipping themselves with air purifiers, masks, plants etc, to tackle the toxic pollution levels in the city. The remaining 13 per cent of the respondents said that they do not have any option but to cope with the rising pollution levels in the city.
The survey with over 17,000 respondents has also revealed that the Delhi-NCR residents are facing medical problems due to the rising air pollution levels in Delhi. When asked about the impact of rising pollution levels on them and their family, 13 per cent of the respondents said one or more of them had to visit the hospital due to pollution-related health problems. Another 29 per cent respondents said that one or more of them had to consult a doctor. Moreover, 44 per cent of respondents admitted to having pollution-related health problems but did not consult a doctor or visit a hospital. Only 14 per cent of the respondents did not encounter any health problems due to the rising pollution levels.
The air quality in Delhi remained under the severe category, and that too despite some parts of Delhi receiving rain on Sunday morning. As of 11 am on Sunday, the air quality index (AQI) of Delhi was 486. It was even higher in Pusa (495), ITO (494) and Mundka (493). It must be noted that though this falls in the severe category, it is in touching distance of the ‘severe plus’ category. An AQI between 401-500 is considered ‘severe’ while anything above 500 falls in the ‘severe plus’ category.
A major cause of the rising pollution levels in Delhi is stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana. SAFAR has stated that the share of stubble burning from Punjab and Haryana in Delhi’s air pollution has increased to 46 per cent. While the practice of burning crop residue has seen a marginal decline in Haryana, it has peaked in Punjab with a 25% spike in stubble burning in the state. Punjab alone has reported 22,137 cases of stubble burning so far.
Meanwhile, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has taken action against 3,000 farmers in the state. Singh said, “Despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court having stayed the recovery of fine from farmers penalized last year, the state government has intensified its drive against the dangerous practice of stubble burning.” He has also accused the Delhi CM of playing politics over the sensitive issue. The Punjab CM said, “Instead of addressing the problem, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is playing political games.” Singh has also requested the Centre to find a solution. He said that he has asked PM Modi to compensate farmers for management of agricultural stubble.
It is clear that the ongoing situation in Delhi is no less than a public health crisis. The reason behind this annual affair is also well-known to all responsible for tackling it. Temporary and makeshift measures can no longer make a difference, and therefore the Centre and the concerned states must now come together to combat this menace, by formulating an effective action-plan. PM Modi needs to go on ‘Abhiyaan’ mode for tackling pollution on the lines of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), one of the most successful schemes of the Modi government. With all possible measures failing to bring about the desired results. PM Modi has single-handedly inspired the country to clean their surroundings, give up gas-subsidies, open bank-accounts and link Aadhaar cards which shows that the brand Modi is a major factor in the country. There is no reason why PM Modi should not accord priority to the menace of rising pollution levels and inspire the nation to tackle it effectively.