Air pollution in Delhi : Why is Justice Katju a pessimist?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

These days air pollution levels are very high in Delhi and the neighbouring regions, 10 times the safety level, and the media is full of this alarming news.

Schools and colleges have been closed, work from home orders issued for offices, work on construction projects stopped, and non essential truck traffic banned

A major cause of air pollution is crop stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP

Polluting vehicles is said to be another cause of air pollution

The Indian Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure at this state of affairs, but what more could it do ? For it to direct stopping air pollution would be like King Canute telling the waves to go back.

I am afraid this problem cannot be solved in the near future, and will get worse.

There are three reasons for this :

(1) The central and state  governments are not seriously interested in solving it, since their focus is only on winning elections. When most people in India go to vote they forget poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare or air or water pollution, and only have caste and religion of the candidate ( or the caste/religion which his party claims to represent )  in their minds. The political leaders know this, so air pollution is very low in their priorities.

(2) Stubble burning is a low-cost, less time-consuming, method for farmers to dispose off their stubble. So they will not resort to costly alternatives (as mentioned below) :

(3) People will not give up using polluting vehicles, and measures to stop this (like the odd-even scheme) will only be another source of corruption in the police, and a vote loser in elections.

This is why I am pessimistic. 

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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