Punjabi farmers and Delhi’s air

Just as our Delhi weather is f-i-n-a-l-l-y begin to cool down a little in the early mornings and late evenings, comes the annual phenomenon that plunges us each year into a toxic mess.

Delhi’s air quality is influenced by many things – geography, crazy dust, rampant uncontrolled construction, insane traffic, people burning rubbish to warm themselves…and, of course, the much reviled farmers of the Punjab.

Of all the ingredients that make up our toxic air-quality-cocktail, it is the farmers I blame the least.

Well, the farmers and the poor chowkidars (guards) & street dwellers, burning whatever rubbish they find to warm themselves on cold winter nights.

They are just trying to earn a living and survive. But they are easy targets.

Our government does SFA for most of the year: the construction continues unchecked, with piles of rubble and sand lying around. The traffic is out of control, and the progress on clean efficient public transport is painfully slow.

But boy oh boy, do we love to blame the farmers.

And the bottom line remains the same.

Delhi’s air gets worse year on year, and we poor hapless residents are condemned to breath a toxic fug.

As a runner I realise I’m possibly even more exposed than the average, since I choose to go out and exercise in the terrible air.

As concerned runners, there is NO way that we can change government policy overnight, nor persuade the farmers of Punjab not to burn stubble…but what we CAN do is try and raise public awareness.

Which is why a group of us ran down Raj Path (Delhi’s central avenue) in face masks yesterday.

My last blog post was on this very topic of runs to raise awareness, but before anyone starts to accuse me of hypocrisy, let me assure you that all we did was run in masks.

We didn’t ask for money.

We didn’t ask people to buy masks – Nirvana Being loaned masks to people who wanted to try them.

All we did was to use our visibility as runners in a busy place on a busy Sunday morning, in an effort to drive home the message that air pollution is serious and that we all need to be aware, and take whatever precautions we see fit.

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