For nearly a month now, Delhi and the larger National Capital Region has become unliveable. Acrid air, people coughing, schools shut, outdoor exercise impossible, and respiratory diseases proliferating: this is now the order of the day. Enough is enough. Governments in the region, which is the economic engine of North India, have escaped lightly despite putting millions of lives in grave danger.
Every year scores of public events, countless newspaper articles, hours of Supreme Court time, and thousands of social media posts make pleas to the central government and the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to coordinate and spare people from this annual winter misery. Unfortunately, there is no improvement in sight.
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It was not always so. The months of October and November when the weather turns pleasant was something to look forward to in the North Indian annual calendar. Today it is synonymous with farm fires, air pollution holidays/shutdowns and ludicrous odd-even car-days. The last said must be called off for putting people at grave inconvenience with no tangible benefits to show for the pain.
As for farm fires, a number of agriculture policy steps need to be conceived over the next six months that reduce the area under paddy cultivation and make machines like happy seeders and super straw management systems available cheap or free of cost to farmers by next September. Citizens need to pull their weight harder if apathetic governments are to listen.