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Make a 5-state Policy to Tackle Air Pollution in NCR

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It felt like someone had stuffed burning tyres, a hundred unstubbed cigarettes and the contents of an open drain into my nose and down my throat. I thought I was going to die.

It was early November. I remember waking up gagging like the rest of Delhi and parts of the National Capital Region. The stench was so foul that I could not only smell but taste it.

I made the mistake of stepping out onto my balcony to get some fresh air but instead I inhaled toxic fumes. Within seconds the incessant coughing began, my eyes watered and a shooting headache gripped me.

One didn’t even need to switch on the news to confirm what I instinctively knew: Delhi had turned into a gas chamber - with poisonous gases 70 times the permissible limit! And I was in the heart of it.

While the better off amongst us followed doctors’ orders to stay indoors, wear masks and buy expensive indoor air purifiers, millions of others suffered a more miserable fate. I’m referring to the underprivileged, the homeless who can’t afford these luxuries, people who need to be on the move for work and infants, children and the elderly whose immune systems are weaker. #RightToBreathe

Masks and purifiers are jugaad (quick-fixes). They don’t solve the problem. They delay doom. What we need are sustainable, long-term solutions. Our government - the people we elected to protect our well-being are the ones who - should be finding a way out. And fast.

But instead what we saw playing out in the news was a blame game. One state blaming another. “Stop your farmers from burning rubble”. “No, you people need to curb vehicular pollution.” “Go regulate construction dust first”.

Frankly, I don’t care who did what and why. Neither do the majority of citizens in North India who are suffering this blanket killer smog year after year.

The time for finger-pointing is now long gone. It’s time for the 5 states most affected by toxic air in North India to work together like the 5 fingers on our hands. They are Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

This issue should be topmost for the leadership of all NCR states.

Because toxic air harms everyone. It doesn’t distinguish between the lungs of ministers and common citizens, Punjabi farmers or Delhi car owners.

I’ve started my petition asking the top political parties to  “Create a 5-state policy to tackle air pollution in NCR”  This, in addition to whatever emergency measures need to be taken to tackle the ongoing situation.

Clean air matters much more to us citizens than votes do to politicians. So I hope the 5 states rise above the petty politics and work in sync.

Sign and share my petition if you believe you have a right to clean air today.

#MyRightToBreathe

Image courtesy: https://epic.uchicago.in/