Musings, Potshots

The chortle of the mosquito

Is Delhi  a gas chamber because of  AAP’s foggy scheme to fog out mosquitoes ?

“For years they’ve been trying to fog us out…never knew they’d fog themselves in!”

Even as we gasp for breath in this Hell that passes for our beloved national Capital, a burning question troubles the remnants of the brain: who is responsible for replacing our air with this foggy, reeking cocktail of poisonous gases and microscopic dust particles that clouds the mind and sets the nose and eyes and lungs and throat ablaze?

The Hon. Arvind Kejriwal, our beloved Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader, proclaims from the confines of his air-conditioned chambers that the answer to this burning question lies with two groups of anti-social elements:

  • farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, who are burning the post-harvest crop stubble in their fields and blowing the smoke towards Delhi (using some mysterious technology that does not disturb the still air)
  • Delhi residents – most of them supporters of the Narendra Modi-led Union Government – who  lit fireworks on Diwali, 30th October.

Is Kejriwal right? The jury is still out.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that most of Kejriwal’s cabinet colleagues, too, are still out. Out of Delhi, that is; on overseas study tours, to learn from Peru and Macedonia, Nauru and Patagonia, how to better manage Delhi’s environmental and other problems.

In their absence, let’s try figure it out ourselves.

It is a fact that this year, Delhi’s air pollution levels – particularly the levels of the deadly ultra-fine dust (particulate matter) known as PM 2.5 – actually started rising sharply and steadily long before Diwali, from the third week of September onward,  till they were five times or more above safety levels by mid-October [click here to read more]. After spiking on Diwali night (predictably), the PM 2.5 levels fell sharply the next day (again, predictably).


But the weirdest thing this year is that, since 3rd November – that’s four days after Diwali – the PM 2.5 levels have again risen sharply…and they continue to rise. Scarily. Today (6th November), the PM 2.5 levels in Anand Vihar were 813 micrograms/cu.m. The maximum safe limit is 60 micrograms/cu.m….

What on earth is going on?

The facts are fraught; the numbers numb the senses; yet they together tell a telling tale that would make an Aedes Egyptii mosquito shiver as though it had malaria.

  • The third week of September always marks the end of the monsoon. Which means, after that there’s no more rain to  dissolve or bring down the dust and other muck we spew into the air. Naturally, we can expect air pollution to rise from end-September. And it does…every year.
  • Early October is the time winter starts to set in. With winter’s onset, a layer of cold (denser) air tends to hang above the City – and there’s no breeze to dissipate this cold air layer. So we can expect pollution to climb even higher during this period And it does…every year.
  • According to Delhi Traffic Police, Delhi has 9,634,976 registered vehicles [click here for details] – most all of them are on the City roads every day, burning diesel and petrol and CNG, and belching the hot, noxious gases and particulate products of combustion into the air around us. Naturally the air gets warmer with all these hot emissions…but the warm air can’t break through the heavier layer of cold air above the City.
  • So, we Delhiwallahs are trapped in a bubble of warm air, that’s trapped inside a larger bubble of cold air.
  • Naturally, the more  foul stuff we spew into our bubble of warm air, the fouler our air-bubble is going to get. Yet we’re doing just that, day after day, with our 9,000,000-plus vehicles. And we’re adding 50,000 new vehicles every month to the City! Oh, let’s not  forget to add  the mega-tonnes of toxic dust we spew into our air-bubble every day:  from our garbage-strewn roads, the gargantuan landfills, the mountains of clinker and ash from power plants, the thousands of under-construction flyovers, buildings, Metro projects… aaarrrggghhh!
  • As for Diwali…well, like with so many traditional festivals/observances, Diwali’s date is determined by the lunar calendar. By definition,  Diwali always falls between mid-October and mid-November— precisely when winter is setting in; precisely when pollution has already become awful. Of course Diwali fireworks spew huge amounts of PM 2.5—but they only add to the already-stupendous, ever-growing load of  pollution in the City’s air-bubble.

Given these facts, it’s not very fair, or very intelligent, for Kejriwal and affiliated AAP netas to blame Delhi’s polluted air on farmers in neighbouring states who are burning crop-stubble, or on Diwali fireworks.

By doing so, the AAP is being as fair, and as intelligent, as the US and  other developed countries who blame India and China and other developing countries for causing climate change. (For 200 years  the US et al.  burned humongous amounts of wood and coke and coal and oil  to power their ‘Industrial Revolutions’, filling the earth’s atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases till we reached the tipping point of irreversible climate change. And now, when China and India et al. are embarking on their own Industrial Revolution, the US and the others rant and rave about how we are  polluting the atmosphere and threatening the future of the earth!)

The harsh truth is, we Delhiwallahs have created the horror we’re breathing. And it’s just going to get worse and worse…until we reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, replace dirty vehicles by cleaner ones, halt the endless construction,  mend our garbage-spewing ways.

Yet, all is not grey and dismal. An unnameable and possibly non-existent IAS officer, recently shunted out by AAP from the Delhi Health Ministry, points out a silver lining in the hideous grey-brown cloud that envelops the Capital. “Cases of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases have come down drastically in the past month,” he proclaims, in a voice slightly muffled by an N99 mask and No.120 zarda paan.

Great God Google reveals that the officer speaks the truth. Dengue cases have indeed fallen dramatically since the last week of September  [click here to read more].

But wait a minute…the last week of September is precisely  when Delhi’s air quality started to worsen.

It makes us wonder: could this mega-pollution of Delhi’s air actually be  a brilliant scheme by Kejriwal et al. to end the epidemic of dengue and chikungunya that has given the AAP such an AAPalling reputation? Has the AAP government  deliberately ignored the air pollution problem? So that it can get rid  of mosquito-borne diseases by getting rid of the mosquitoes themselves? By fogging the mosquitoes (and in the process, us) to death?

We ran our theory past the IAS officer. His response, delivered from the left corner of his N99 mask, was fluid and swift: a scarlet arc of paan juice that missed us by millimeters. It was followed by a torrent of crimson abuse against the AAP, and ended with an Urdu couplet, slightly modified from Allama Iqbal’s original: a couplet so beautiful and AAPt…er…apt, that we humbly present it here with rough translation:

Raat Machar Ne Keh Diya Mujh Se
Majra Apni Na-Tamami Ka

“Mujh Ko Dete Hain Aik Boond Lahoo
Sila Shab Bhar Ki Tashna Kaami Ka

Aur Ye Be-Wakoof Be-Zehmat
Pe Gya Sub Lahoo Aam Aadmi Ka

 Last night the mosquito related to me
The tale, in full, of her misery:

“They give me only one drop of blood
In return for my full night’s labour

While, without any toil, these asses
Suck the entire blood of the masses!”


Jai hind.