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Toxic air, hungry kids: Divisive politics rules

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Delhi has recently had a burst of unseasonal rain – a big relief amid the dangerous air pollution, officially labelled a public health emergency. Perhaps, folks in other cities with blue skies will take a temporary break from trolling its residents. The real worry is that despite all the hand-wringing and non-stop coughing, Delhiites and residents of all the other cities in the country with dangerous levels of air pollution will settle down once again to a familiar angst-laced resignation.

The story is the same every year.

Malnutrition and air pollution are among the top health risks facing India. But in this country, sadly, both are at risk of being turned into sectarian, “us and them”, either/or, binary issues.

Listening to some of the public discourse around these issues, you would not think that they pose such a grave threat to India’s present and future.

Take air pollution, which has been a top headline grabber. India has some of the world’s most polluted cities but every Diwali, in recent years, there is a template response from a section of the populace who see bursting crackers as an essential part of being a good Hindu. This year was no different, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling about “green firecrackers” and mandated times for bursting them.

Many people violated the rules. Some were even triumphalist. The argument is that it is not only firecrackers that contribute to poisonous air. The problem with this argument is that no one ever said firecrackers alone were responsible for foul air.

Different factors at different times of the year........

© Deccan Chronicle