Must share responsibility for the air we share

A newspaper vendor rides his bicycle on a smoggy morning in New Delhi on December 1, 2015. (Reuters photo)

A newspaper vendor rides his bicycle on a smoggy morning in New Delhi on December 1, 2015. (Reuters photo)

Delhi is witnessing the worst pollution crisis in recent years and the city has been compared to a “gas chamber” by the High Court. The blame has been swiftly put on vehicular emissions, coal powered power plants and obsolete automobile technology, among others.

The Delhi government announced a slew of measures early December in the wake of the crisis. The steps taken by the government include closing down of two thermal power plants, barring trucks from entering the city before 11 pm and pre-poning the cut-off date for implementation of Euro-VI emission norms. The only move of the government which irked many and led to furious debating in television studios was regulating private vehicle usage by means of licence plate restrictions. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party sharply criticised the move by calling it “anti-people” and “half-baked” respectively.

The odd-even formula, which is to be implemented temporarily from January 1 will allow private vehicles access to Delhi’s roads only on alternate days based on licence plate numbers. The policy, if implemented accurately, can reduce pollution miraculously. But is the Indian society open to such diktats?

Implementing any policy in a diverse and complex country like India requires understanding of needs and mindsets. The Delhi High Court rightly observed that the Centre and the Delhi government’s action plans on air pollution were “not in action” because people were not following the rules.

Restrictions imposed by the government must be reasonable and practical in every possible way. Cities such as Beijing and Paris have implemented such restrictions in the past to decongest traffic and reduce air pollution. But public transport was expanded substantially to prevent any inconvenience. Several European countries have ear marked certain areas as low emission zones to tackle the hazard.

Delhi’s public transport system is relatively better than most metropolitan cities in the country, but the people to transport option ratio is highly disparate. The rising number of commuters have led to overcrowding in Metro trains and buses alike. Easing and expanding public transport is the need of the hour.

Also, the great Indian class divide is a major factor behind difference of opinion and misunderstanding. The psyche of the rich and affluent often makes them choose expensive cars over public transport, which is used by the less privileged mostly. This class divide must end for good and steps must be taken to improve connectivity in the city.

Pollution is harming us significantly and we must act collectively towards meeting pollution reduction targets before it’s too late.

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Modi baiting by “seculars” in UK

David Cameron and Narendra Modi

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Parliament Square, London on November 12, 2015. Reuters photo.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on an official visit to the United Kingdom. The visit is intended to maintain and enhance bilateral, political and economic relations between the two countries. This very normal interaction has given rise to strange reactions in certain quarters.

On the sidelines of the usual welcoming protocols, PM Modi faced vociferous groups of protestors. They included Khalistanis, who accused the Modi government of persecution of the Sikh minority in India. There were groups who cited Dadri, Kashmir and Gujarat riots as examples of religious intolerance with tacit government support. The Khalistan agitators are motivated by the dastardly violence against Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, three decades ago. It took place during Congress rule. It was also a direct culmination of wicked political machinations by the same political entity. Has anyone seen any discrimination against the Sikh community since then? The Sikhs continue to prosper in this country without any hindrance.

The Khalistan protestors in the UK and elsewhere in the western world are professional fundraisers with rabid communal motivations. The gruesome Dadri incident attracted international media coverage, not by chance, but by malicious manipulation by groups with vested interests. It is conveniently forgotten that Dadri is situated in a state ruled by a non-BJP government, and law and order is a state subject.

Kashmir is a case of Pakistani proxy war waged with the avowed aim of upsetting communal amity in this country. One should also not forget that the Gujarat riots were a direct consequence of the carnage perpetrated on Hindu pilgrims at Godhra. Though, it does not justify the riots that followed.

The role played by these disruptive elements is not surprising. What amazes, is the stance adopted by a section of the intellectual and academic brotherhood. After independence, Nehruvian ideology of socialist utopia prevailed with a distinct tilt towards the then Soviet Union. Taking advantage of the environment, Leftist intellectuals took over and dominated every sphere of cultural and educational activity run with public money. People with nationalist motivations were undermined, and often pushed out of the limelight. This Leftist section cornered plump positions and the privileges associated with it. These elements feel threatened by the advent of a government other than the Congress. They apprehend loss of patronage. So they raised a hue and cry over Dadri. They return medals, awarded by committees, controlled by their own kind.

Being Leftist, they are supposedly international in their approach, and do not see any wrong in vilifying their motherland in the global arena. They go into mute mode, when a Hindu girl is raped and murdered in West Bengal, or Kashmiri Pandits become refugees in their own country. This abuse of freedom of expression and hypocrisy is truly painful, and should be condemned by all secular and right thinking citizens.

Libya in anarchy

Arab Spring happened in Tunisia. It’s wake travelled eastward to the shores of the Arabian sea. The first serious consequence affected neighbouring Libya.

Libya was being ruled by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, a dictator, he ruled by stapling all forms of dissent and deft manipulation of tribal rivalries within the country to his advantage. The country’s large oil reserves is of interest to America and its allies across the Mediterranean. They desired a pliant state, sensitive to their needs, but Gaddafi did not oblige. Deeply religious and with his own world view, his activities were seen as a threat to their national security. His vehement support to the Palestenian cause and criticism of American endorsement of Israel did not endear him to the western world.

Gaddafi was accused of financing militancy in different parts of the world, as far as the Philippines. The breaking point came when an international Pan Am flight was bombed over the coast of Scotland, known as the Lockerbie bombing. Later, his complicity was established.

Inspired by the happenings in Tunisia, the long suppressed Libyan citizenry rose in revolt and the western powers came to their aid. Gaddafi came down on the dissidents heavily with a considerable military force at his disposal. With the rebels on the back-foot, the western powers intervened. He was denied the sea lanes by active western naval presence. NATO warplanes confined his air assets to their bases. His ground forces became sitting ducks in the flat Libyan landscape. Gaddafi was defeated.

Gaddafi, with his sons and associates killed or captured, was on the run. He was tracked to the city of Sirte, and lynched.

So far so good, for the intervening powers, but they could not anticipate the aftermath. The militias refused to disband, and began fighting each other. Deep tribal rivalries kept in check by Gaddafi resurfaced. The high point that followed was the attack on the American embassy and murder of the ambassador. The Americans blamed Al-Qaeda inspired militants. Their claim gained credence when a lone gunman attacked a Tunisian beach resort and killed a large number of European holiday makers. The government hunted him down and said he was trained in an extremist camp in Libya.

Presently, Libya sports two governments in Tripoli and Tobruk respectively. With the country sinking into lawlessness, the bloodletting continues with no solution in sight.

PS: The objective of the Arab Spring was to ensure a democratic and peaceful social dispensation.