Newspaper reports live in their own world of make-belief but once in a while they tend to hit upon some conclusion that stays steady from one decade to another, from one generation to the other… and one such conclusion that most renowned editors have never divorced is that the top leadership in the country has always been surrounded by people who say: ‘All is well, life is cool, Sir ji.’ And so we have wit oozing out of phrases like ‘Yes, Minister!’ or even ‘Yes, Prime Minister!’ Obviously then even I would prefer to begin by saying, ‘Life is cool in Delhi, Mr Modi!’
Environment, pollution, and healthcare are obviously fine in Delhi
Moving towards ‘zero-defect and zero-effect’ is so full of energy and there is a constant tussle between government agencies wanting permission to cut trees and activists who wish to save them all for the sake of our environment. After all, as Henry David Thoreau said years back, ‘What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?’ If newspaper reports are to be believed, not long back there were 16000 trees chopped to make way for houses in the capital. Not that there were no protests… there was one ridiculous case of some lawyer filing a PIL and suggesting that cutting trees be allowed IF more were planted in the same area. Is this possible? Is this a sane solution?
Delhi has a fair share of residents who have no idea about how to protect the environment possibly because they haven’t yet heard of people like Barry Commoner who vouch for environment-positive actions and have said in no uncertain terms that ‘the proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it.’ We live in a city where pollution due vehicles on our roads is now a major culprit. Move outside Delhi and crop burning contributes to pollution-dense conditions rather shamelessly each year. No wonder then one study by IIT Kanpur points out to the presence of more than a reasonable amount of PM10 and PM2.5 as the reason why some call Delhi as ‘Hitler’s gas chamber’ responsible for the pre-mature death of as many as 10,000 people each year. You see, nitrogen dioxide and VOCs create ground level ozone layers on reacting with sunlight and this can be deadly.
Delhi is a city where dengue is still a major threat. The hospitals are crowded and healthcare facilities are pathetic though the Mohalla Clinics have done their bit to take healthcare as near the residents as possible. What I am trying to say is that concern for the environment, pollution, and healthcare are inter-woven and just one cannot be held responsible for any catastrophic result. There is then the case of half-good-half-bad sewage system lines. Studies have shown that more than 45 percent of waste produced in the city still goes untreated in the Yamuna. The garbage dumping grounds are a big controversy here and what Delhi needs urgently is decision-making at the highest level to construct and make functional waste-treatment plants. Garbage conversion to compost must no longer exist as a fancy DIY project for a few enthusiasts but as an urgent integral part of any infrastructure building attempt in this city. By the way, there is news about some agencies in other countries who have even begun to say that they do not want the residents to segregate waste any more.
And yet I will go on to say that Delhi is a cool place to live in, Mr Modi… because I find people from all over the country wanting to come and find a livelihood here. I guess there is a certain segment in the political circles constantly pushing for statehood for Delhi because they feel that development needs can then be looked after better. After all, statistics say that the population here is projected to grow by 11 million from 14 to 25 million by 2030. There is then the case of a huge number of people categorized as ‘floating population’ who enter the city for rallies and other protests putting the entire system under tremendous pressure.
So yes, the environment, pollution, and healthcare in Delhi must still be a cool place to come to, Mr Modi though what your team of experts need to understand is that people are moving here because the conditions in smaller towns and villages must be much worse.
Electricity status is fine in Delhi
The residents of Delhi have been investing in inverters and generators for ages now because there are innumerable incidents of voltage fluctuations that damage circuits, gadgets, and appliances. The Capital gets about 2,325 megawatts from coal-based plants. However, the supply did fall to 1,355 megawatts in mid-May and the reasons given included a shortage of coal supply to the thermal power plants in Dadri and Badarpur. So yes, we do need more rakes/wagons from Indian Railways to get more coal here… because, after all, our needs are growing with so many more people coming in to settle here. But there is more to this, so please read on.
Why am I talking about more and more people leaving other towns and villages to come and live in Delhi? I travel a lot within the country, Mr Modi and I know how misbehaved the electric supply is outside the capital. This is not hearsay. There are thousands of farmers who wait interminably for water and electric supply and are exhausted because they have watched their fields yield nothing year after year because these two vital helpers were missing. There are students who are fed-up of learning computing by reading books on computing under candle-light when they should be learning it all hands-on… because their desktops and laptops remain unworkable as there is no power. And thus we find everyone from farmers to students, from professionals to job-seekers finding Delhi a much cooler place to come and live in. So yes, life is cool in Delhi, Mr Modi, but I wish the conqueror in you pauses for a while between your political victories in the states and redirects his energy to make things work there.
What we in India need is an effective harnessing of other energy sources so that energy needs are solved in every nook and corner. Mr Modi, we need smiles in our smaller towns and villages too.
Water isn’t a problem in Delhi
Let me first enumerate the facts for Delhi. The temperature during the summer months goes way above 40 degree Celsius and there are pockets in the capital where water stress is obvious. Ground water depletion is a phenomenon that is common all over the country. Water bodies have been allowed to degenerate to become sources for unscrupulous builders to suggest projects that are assumed to be solving housing problems for citizen… and this fact is as much present in Delhi as elsewhere. Delhi must produce 182 litres per person daily if people are to get 130 litres… and with water losses during distribution being massive, this target becomes more and more difficult as years go by. Reports suggest that in many European cities people live a healthy life with 75 litres per day eg Malaga in Spain and Leipzig in Germany. However, I will still say that water isn’t yet a big problem in Delhi. So far as Delhi is concerned, one report published in the Indian Express goes to point out that ‘such is the pressure that the Delhi government went to court against the Haryana government, with which it has a water-sharing pact. The AAP government claimed Haryana has denied Delhi its share of water leading up to the summer. But in a recent meeting with the Upper Yamuna River Board, the government was urged to withdraw all cases against the Haryana government, after an assurance by the state that it will release 1,080 cusecs of water to the capital.’
Water issues do not ever exist without other issues. A Central Pollution Control Board report says that ‘almost 40% of untreated sewage from Delhi either seeps into the ground or is discharged into the Yamuna River. The fact that other sources report this figure at 60% is telling: wastewater-treatment facilities are not only lacking – they are abysmally poorly managed.’ What this means is that the problem isn’t limited to the availability and supply of water. It is poor management of water that is leading to other connected issues.
However, the water issues for Delhi, despite all the factors mentioned above are still dwarfed once compared to the crisis that occurs in other cities and villages. If what Delhi needs most is a renewed focus on rain-water harvesting, so does the entire country. If Delhi needs a better managed water supply system so do other cities and villages. Why must we still have a huge population walking for miles for just a few buckets of drinking water? Why must water be a problem at all? The situation of water supply in Delhi is tolerable. So though life is cool in the capital, Mr Modi, it isn’t so in other places. This should be one of your major concerns because water too is one of the factors forcing people from even far-off places to come and search for employment here.
Crime rate and safety of women? Not a concern here in Delhi
Stats from PDFs uploaded on the Delhi Police website tell me that dacoity, murder, kidnapping for ransom, and rioting incidents have gone down. Wow! I feel so safe here. Compared to 2012, in the crime against women PDF, dowry related crimes and cruelty by husband and in-laws has gone down… and this speaks a lot for the way people conduct themselves in the capital.
Things aren’t so rosy in other states where there is no respite from any kind of crime. But they can afford a sigh of relief because Delhi does have a forceful increase in rape, snatching, burglary, motor vehicle, house, and other thefts. Cases of assault with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty and cases of kidnapping and abduction of women have more than doubled. The point is that the crime graphs look less menacing here and so I’d say this city is rather cool.
So there are areas where Delhi is doing quite well, but then we do have a police force that is rather confused and is never sure if they are accountable to the Centre or the government in place in the UT… and something tells me that the police in the capital doesn’t possibly want their counterparts in other states to feel completely left out. So Mr Modi, please focus on the crime graphs in other states, including Rajasthan, UP, and Haryana because their performance seems to be rubbing off on the force in Delhi.
Scams? What are scams?
Come on now, Delhi can never snatch as many scam-tainted headlines as a few other states do. Yes, we do have Babus who have their houses filled with potted plants sent by the horticulture department, but then it is all for the sake of our environment. Their wives are seen riding official cars more than the officials but then this is a routine that maintains harmony at home. A few middle-men conduct their snide operations away from the office and away from any CCTV cameras, and this is good because the office, after all, is like a temple. We certainly don’t have massive stocks of fodder to play around with or encouraging gun-toting goondas to go around kidnapping honest workers and activists. We don’t have dams that displace thousands, there are no bridges that get constructed only in the imagination of sarkari notings and if built, generally come crumbling down killing a few innocent people, and we do not have notified forest land that is sold to people who build massive bunglows there and the wildlife has no choice but to withdraw someplace else.
Yes, we have NGOs here of which the High Court once remarked, ‘99% NGOs are fraud, money-making devices.’ One report from Hindustan Times in 2013 says: ‘Most private run so called philanthropic organizations do not understand their social responsibilities. 99% of the existing NGOs are fraud and simply moneymaking devices. Only one out of every hundred NGOs serve the purpose they are set up for.’ The report mentioned a bench headed by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and added that there was ‘a need for toughening of licensing norms and legislature has to keep this in mind.’ So you see, we simply need norms and legislations in place and an implementation process that doesn’t doze off.
Yes, we also have our share of railway touts, hotel touts, RTO touts, get-your-work-done touts, get-a-bed-in-hospital touts… and the bureaucracy gingerly places a glowing halo around their intimidating frames and assume no one knows that the middlemen all over the city are directly connected to them. However, we are slowly learning to stay away from the real world of touts and attempting to do our work through portals and websites. So you see, Mr Modi, things are pretty cool in Delhi but this isn’t the case once you travel away from Delhi. We, therefore, need the rest of the country to be better so that the cities and towns that are saturated with criminals of all shades and hues do not come here to set-up shop.
Everything else too is cool here, Mr Modi
Traffic, transportation, infrastructure, and employment situation here in Delhi is fine. A few traffic jams on every main and subsidiary road is nothing but a problem of people unwilling to follow laws. The infrastructure is always a step ahead of the demand for housing though most new-built apartments struggle for occupancy. Public transport is never short of commuters. We have vocational courses introduced in almost every college here and so people are, in theory, job-ready from day one. The police are active and there are rallies by women to reclaim their right on the roads even at night. What more do we want? All is well here. Mr Modi.
Why must you lose sleep over Delhi? Why must anyone blame the government if traffic jams continue to be a big drain upon the efficiency of professionals, and if accidents by foolish and under-age drivers on the roads cause trauma to hundreds of families? Is it the government’s fault that builders are forever surrounded by people who have invested their money but worry over poorly built flats and complain about delivery postponements? The government is certainly not to be blamed for employment seekers roaming around with degrees but not accepting jobs that don’t define their talent or if they continue to ask for better salaries.
It is exceedingly immature of anyone to conclude that because of a few hiccups here and there the capital is said to be uncool. It isn’t. Delhi is a cool place to live in, Mr Modi, and anyway with so many more people entering these issues are bound to crop up. And when I mention people moving in I have not taken into account the hundreds who have hopped over from neighboring countries to set up dense and impenetrable blocks of shanties within which goes on a lot of activity that only people like Mr Doval would understand.
Life is cool in Delhi…
I know this post distorts the word ‘cool’ in so many ways, but listen, the condition elsewhere is worse and people from Delhi always want everyone to be happier. I do hope this #BlogToPM is read by him some day.
17 September 2018