'Stop panicking, Delhi air pollution isn't Bhopal gas leak': Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan's joke just isn’t funny

For once no one is mocking the NRI landing in Delhi with his bottled water, Paracetamol tablets and US-made face masks. Fetched in Delhi two nights ago and felt the toxic oxygen sear my lungs.

Perhaps we NRIs are not made of sterner stuff and do not have the level of medical resistance of the sons of the soil but this is bad and the see-saw of the deep red gauge for the pollution levels is not the least bit heartening when it drops from ‘are you crazy’ to ‘very severe’ and everyone looks like the crisis is over.

Afraid to venture out and nudging the whirling dervish of an air purifier (also foreign made) closer to me I was filled with liquid gushes of hope when I read this morning that the Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has informed the 17 million citizens of Delhi that no one ever died of pollution so relax, stop kicking up such a fuss.

This is just the sort of deeply researched sop we needed. Now, we can suck in lungfuls of muck knowing that if we die the coroner will not say 'death by pollution.' This is very relieving and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. By this argument, Minister, one is hard placed to see a death certificate that says ‘death by cigarette smoke’ but then you would know better. So long as we die of other causes it is all good.

 Stop panicking, Delhi air pollution isnt Bhopal gas leak: Environment Minister Harsh Vardhans joke just isn’t funny

A file image of Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan. PTI

Here is your government, both state and central, hugely incapable of even ordering this ‘odd-even’ traffic culling because it has more exemptions than those who would be included in the ‘no go’ list and the suddenly powerful monolith of the National Green Tribunal (whom 90 percent of the nation had no clue existed or wielded so much clout) has indicted the Kejriwal-led city administration for endangering lives with these exceptions.

And there is no one in India to dissolve the impasse. Can’t the president exercise some sort of unilateral authority?

Imagine if one of our neighbours declared war on us and this is how we dithered over responses. "Please wait, we are still in disagreement. You cannot attack us yet."

In fact, the contradiction is absurd and eloquently articulated by Justice Swatanter Kumar who said, "When reports have stated that two wheelers are more polluting that four wheelers why do you intend to give arbitrary exemption to this category. Is this some sort of a joke.”

It is a joke but it isn’t funny. When Harsh Vardhan, the minister with the responsible portfolio, states that it is not as if it is the Bhopal Union Carbide gas leak so get over it, we the people, should thank him for his insight and his profundity in allaying our stupid and foolish fears and concerns. If kids are hacking and the infirm and old are gasping it is okay take comfort in the fact that nobody will blame the pollution.

Damn it we should be keeling over like some B-grade extras in a remake of the Hiroshima or Nagasaki atomic blast or falling on the streets as in Bhopal and then perhaps Harsh Vardhan will feel for us.

The most touching and caring part of his assessment of the situation is that he said it is not an emergency, all you need is routine precautions and get this, you will be able to care of it. Not the government, you. Go on then, take care of it.

Thank you sir, surely Delhi is choked with emotion after you have given them clarity otherwise they would have continued into day eight bemoaning their fate and coughing up dark, black phlegm.

Updated Date: Nov 15, 2017 13:53:12 IST