If there is one this to be positive about during this lockdown, it is how the levels of pollution had reduced as compared to last year. The Air Quality Index (AQI) indicated levels below 50, or ‘good’, prompting authorities to ensure pollution levels stay down in future. Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution has also gone down in several cities across India.
The coronavirus pandemic has overturned our lives; being in lockdown mode for almost a month is our best efforts to flatten the curve of the outbreak. As commerce shuts down and billions of people worldwide stop their daily commute to work, the world is getting quieter. The inevitable traffic noise that we were accustomed to before the pandemic has now disappeared; the hustle and bustle of daily activity has slowed down.
An unprecedented occurrence, like this pandemic, is affecting the entire planet positively and scientists around the world are monitoring changes, especially about the improvement in air quality. It’s during times like these we ought to exercise our individual and collective responsibility. We can use this time to reflect on how our carbon footprint has impacted the earth so far, and what change we as individuals can do to protect the environment.
Our Daily Commute
Life in many metropolitan cities across the country are known for their horrendously long wait in traffic. In a city like Bangalore, one could often waste an entire day just by waiting for the traffic to move. With the virus outbreak, roads are relatively empty, and pollution has been reduced. In India, every year during late September and October mainly in Punjab and Haryana burns an estimated 35 million tons of crop waste from their paddy fields. After harvesting the crop, as a low-cost straw-disposal practice to reduce the turnaround time between harvesting and sowing for the second (winter) crop, they burn the residual.
Delhi has been suffering because of this, as the already polluted state’s air quality drops drastically during this time. On October 14, 2019, the air quality index (AQI) in the national capital was at 280, the upper end of ‘poor’ category, according to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting. From October to early this year, the Delhi Government had a challenging task of improving the air quality.
The Government didn’t have any option but to re-introduce the odd-even system to control the pollution. Now, as employees are working from homes, students taking online classes, there is less movement outside.
Being at home brings out how our usual routine of life is affecting the ever-changing planet around us. The changes we are dealing with are good, especially for our planet. We have not just witnessed the changes in road transportation, but there have been changes in the air traffic too.
How has COVID 19 lockdown reduced air traffic?
Travel ban has caused some trouble throughout the country; students living away from home or even living abroad could not travel after the Government issue a travel ban in early March. As transport was closing, train and bus tickets were being cancelled, so were flights.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had announced that the travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European free trade association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from March 18, 2020. With more and more airlines cancelling their services to and fro our country, it had resulted in clean and clearer skies.
The ban on both domestic and international travel has meant lesser planes flying to and fro from various global and domestic destinations.
Status of Air quality in Delhi
The data put forth by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicates that the air quality in the national capital is presently in the “good” category. Moreover, 92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality in the range of “good” to “satisfactory”.
According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), Delhi has also seen a 30 per cent reduction in fine particulate pollutant as a result of the lockdown, and a 15 per cent drop has been recorded in Ahmedabad and Pune.
This was a wakeup call not just for the Government but also for us the citizens. A change in the global emission of greenhouses gases made it possible for pollution-free air, the reduction of commuting has led to not only quieter roads but also social responsibility as to how an individual’s carbon footprint has affected our entire planet so far.
For those looking to stay positive, during this lockdown, here is what you need to know– the reduced traffic on the roads and the skies across India is having a profound impact on our nation’s air quality.
The Modi Government Has Failed
The greatest PR company in the country was back in action a few weeks ago, but their latest attempt at damage control was, at best, pathetic. Two opinion pieces in supposedly international publications were aggressively pushed on Twitter by the BJP army.
One is published on a website called The Daily Guardian and screams, “PM MODI HAS BEEN WORKING HARD; DON’T GET TRAPPED IN THE OPPOSITION’S BARBS“. The writer is Sudesh Verma, unsurprisingly from BJP’s Media Relations Committee. The website itself is unimpressive, and the portal has around 2000 followers on Twitter, a rather low number considering the numerous BJP leaders who have shared the article, along with the 45 subscribers on YouTube.
The second piece, “Besides COVID-19, India is also fighting with vulture journalists, who are spreading more panic and despair than pandemic“, on a website called Australia today, is nothing more than a foul-spirited diss track against Burkha Dutt. The website domain is registered in the name of Jitarth Jai Bhardwaj, and its Twitter and Instagram accounts have meagre 1074 and 36 followers, respectively. This article is re-published from The Trunicle, a site that describes itself as “a pro nationalist opinion and news portal, launched in July 2020 by US-based NRIs”.
Considering how critical international media has been of the ruling Government, it is obvious why these pieces were published in obscure, supposedly foreign news outlets when Swarajya or OpIndia would have happily published them. This was not even the first time the Indian Right has used such fake international websites. The irony is not lost when proud nationalists need foreign validation to beat foreign criticism.
Asking Twitter to take down dissenting posts makes it very clear that the Government cares more about its image than the lives of its citizens. All this was accompanied by the usual ‘communist foreign media is biased and conspiring against Modi and India’. Great Hindi poet Harishankar Parsai sums it up beautifully-
“तानाशाह एक डरपोक आदमी होता है। अगर पांच गधे भी साथ-साथ घास खा रहे हों तो तानाशाह को डर पैदा होता है कि गधे भी मेरे ख़िलाफ़ साजिश कर रहे हैं। “
“A dictator is a coward. If five donkeys just graze grass together, the dictator feels that the donkeys are conspiring against him.”
A recent Reuters report exposed the nonchalance of our leaders. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG), set up by the Government in December last year, warned of a new dangerous variant in early March. Scientists on February 1 detected the B.1.167 variant, and they warned the Health Ministry’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that infections could quickly rise in the country.
The INSACOG also formulated a media statement for the Health ministry saying that the two mutations called E484Q and L452R were of “high concern”. The ministry published the findings on March 24; the statement did not mention the words “high concern”. How many catastrophes have befallen us just because politicians paid no heed when scientists said “high concern”.
Shahid Jameel, one of the top virologists in the country, recently quit as the head of INSACOG. In an article for The New York Times, he suggested methods to control the rise of infections and then wrote, “All of these measures have wide support among my fellow scientists in India. But they are facing stubborn resistance to evidence-based policymaking.”
Earlier, he also told Reuters, “Policy has to be based on evidence and not the other way around. I am worried that science was not taken into account to drive Policy. But I know where my jurisdiction stops. As scientists we provide the evidence, policymaking is the job of the Government.” Imagine hiring the best engineers to build a building, then ignoring their suggestions and when the roof falls on someone’s head, saying that you “feel their suffering equally“.
A Senior Central Government official in a Secretary Level meeting on April 5 had raised the issue that the Kumbh Mela might become a super spreader event. To allow and endorse such a massive religious festival after numerous warnings and to print front-page ads (with the Prime Minister’s face of course) inviting people to gather in the millions, that too a year early because of astrological reasons, was, in the politest term possible, extremely stupid.
Broadcast media was all over the 9,000 strong Tablighi Jamaat gathering last year, but they didn’t seem to have a problem with the 91 Lakh strong Kumbh Mela. The lengths to which Aaj Tak went to defend the Kumbh and attack the Markaz show their bigotry and dishonesty. The point is not to say that the Markaz was without fault, but to say that one should not consume news on television.
The National Task Force for Covid-19 met on April 15 and “unanimously agreed that the situation is serious and that we should not hesitate in imposing lockdowns,” said one of the scientists who took part in the meeting, reports Reuters. This Task Force is headed by V.K. Paul, the Government’s top coronavirus adviser. On April 17, Narendra Modi said in Bengal, “Have never seen such a huge crowd in any rally”.
Sujeet Kumar Singh, head of the National Centre for Disease Control, said, “It was highlighted very, very clearly that unless drastic measures are taken now, it will be too late to prevent the mortality which we are going to see…… The exact time, as per our thinking, was 15 days before,” in meetings on April 18th and 19th, referring to the need for stricter lockdown measures. All these statements by top scientists, almost unheard of, shows that media bias is anything but against the Government.
Early victory against the virus was declared by multiple leaders, including PM Modi and Dr Harshvardhan. Addressing the World Economic Forum in January, Modi said, “(India) has saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively”. In early March, when cases had already started to rise, Harshvardhan said, “We are in the end game of the COVID-19 pandemic in India…… Unlike most other countries, we have a steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines.”
How these words must haunt him now that we know the ‘game’ is very much on. We don’t have any vaccines either. The shortage is such that only six states began vaccination for the 18+ age group after the Centre decided to open it up on May 1. Even senior citizens are finding it difficult to get their second dose.
The Foreign Contributions Regulation Amendment Act passed last year forces NGOs to, among other things, have an account in a specific SBI branch in New Delhi to receive foreign aid and stops them from passing on this aid to other smaller NGOs (leading to lack of funds in local NGOs). The same act allows only 20% of such assistance to be used as administrative expenses (salaries, training, equipment, legal charges, etc.).
Such backbreaking bureaucracy and micromanagement have proven disastrous in the pandemic when NGOs have been feeding the poor in lockdowns and helping with oxygen cylinders and medicines. Amnesty International India shut down operations last year after what it described as a two year “incessant witch-hunt” by the Government of India after the Enforcement Directorate froze its accounts. These draconian measures were introduced to stop misuse of foreign funds while the Government uses its full force to illegally stop the PM Cares fund from coming under the purview of RTI.
The Government’s endorsement of Patanjali’s Coronil has to be the final nail in the coffin. A doctor trained in modern medicine—India’s Health Minister—sitting on a stage with a saffron-clad man endorsing pseudoscientific medicine goes a long way in invalidating scientific research. False claims saying Coronil is a cure for covid and that WHO has certified the herbal concoction were floated around. The BBC found the drug to be absolutely ineffective at preventing Covid infections. It is not even legal to advertise Coronil in the United Kingdom par India me toh sab chalta hai. Read more about the useless trial conducted in Rajasthan to prove Coronil’s supposed effectiveness here, here, here and here.
On top of this, Ramdev ridicules science by saying that lakhs have died of covid after taking ‘allopathic’ medicine. He also posted 25 incredibly dumb questions to the IMA like, “Does the pharma industry have permanent treatment for thyroid, arthritis, colitis and asthma?” making ridiculous remarks like, “Doctors should not fall ill at all if allopathy is all-powerful and ‘sarvagun sampanna’.” He has now gone on to say, “Arrest toh unka baap bhi nahi kar sakta,” after doctors called for his arrest.
Even a dysfunctional autocrat like Donald Trump held daily press conferences when Covid-19 raged in the United States. In India, thousands of bodies floating in rivers don’t seem reason enough for the Prime Minister to answer any questions. Official infection and death counts seem to be so inaccurate that one can confidently ignore them.
The situation is so bad that one of the best-regarded medical journals globally- 198-year-old The Lancet published an editorial calling out the Modi government on its mishandling of the situation.
Obviously, healthcare is a state subject, and the states are also to be blamed, but no one can deny that Narendra Modi is the single most influential man in the country. His following experts’ suggestions and acting in a way befitting a leader would have made an enormous difference. Shed tears on national television all you want, Mr Prime Minister, you are fooling no one. You have brought this upon us.
“Modiji Modiji jhola utha lo ab tum ji
Ya Kailasa chale jao, Ya sanyas lelo ji”
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of News Aur Chai and News Aur Chai Media does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
Israel Continues Committing War Crimes Gaza Forcing Hundreds Of Residents To Flee Their Homes
Palestinians were yet again faced with the horrors of arbitrary intimidation, and belligerent attacks by Israel in Gaza as its Air Force continued its unabated bombing campaign into the early hours of Friday morning. Several media houses reported airstrikes by the Israeli Air Force earlier Thursday, which targeted multiple landmark towers in Gaza, comprising several residential apartments and commercial and media offices. According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, the death toll has reached 109, including 28 children and 15 women, with over 621 estimated to have sustained injuries.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces on the ground continued to intimidate, provoke, threaten and inflict psychological trauma on Palestinians living in mixed neighbourhoods across the occupied West Bank, attacking their homes and businesses; confining them to unsafe spaces under the looming threat of an attack by armed Colonial Israeli Settler Mobs and Israeli ground forces. Emboldened by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s green light to use “means with full powers”, several ground forces have seen traumatizing residents living in various parts of the occupied West Bank.
Ibrahim Souri was documenting Israeli police activity in Ajami, Jaffa last night. An officer told him to look away. "I'm filming, is that prohibited? You want to shoot, go ahead," he says. "You’ve been aiming at me for an hour. Shoot, it’s all documented."
Police then shot him. pic.twitter.com/87H3B2Yv9M
— Henriette Chacar هنريت شقر (@HenrietteChacar) May 13, 2021
On Wednesday, Israeli news channel ‘Channel 11’ live telecasted a public lynching carried out by reportedly by a large group of Far-Right nationalists. As seen in the video, the group pulled the person, believed to be an Arab, from the car and viciously beat him up in the street amidst Israeli police presence. Videos posted on Twitter reflected the monstrosity of the Israeli forces, where they can be seen entering a Palestinian Family’s home in Haifa and assaulting them. Forces can also be seen apathetically throwing stun grenades in by-lanes within neighborhoods.
— DAILY SABAH (@DailySabah) May 12, 2021
Watch these videos! All of them and spread them. This is the reality for #Palestinians living in the #Israeli settler colony. #Police storming into people’s homes and beating the shit out of them. #Save_Sheikh_Jarrah #acab 1/3 pic.twitter.com/eGYqrQNxCt
— Riya Al (@RiyaAlsanah) May 12, 2021
Instances of brutality brazenly carried out by Israeli Police, the IDF and colonial settlers are not isolated. The IDF and Israeli police have a decade-long history of sexualizing, assaulting, threatening, provoking, and scoffing at Palestinians living in occupied territories. Unlawful detentions, arbitrary confinement, rights violations, alienation, and the occupation of oppression, subjugation, and settler colonialism are psychological tactics highlighted within the Israeli administration’s notebook to curb the Palestinian resistance.
The malice currently on display by Israel escalated a week earlier when the Israeli Police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in East Jerusalem, brutally injuring and dismissing over 200 worshippers gathered to offer prayers during the holy month – by use of rubber pellets and Stun Grenades. Protests against the impending ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice – initially to be given on Jerusalem Day – on the evictions of eight Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem for Israeli Colonial Settlers to move in have been met with excessive pushback by the Israeli Police. At the beginning of the month, the Israeli Police resorted to firing a stench liquid called ‘Skunk Water’ that hangs in the air, preventing demonstrators from gathering on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood’s streets.
Following the violence perpetrated by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Hamas, the militant group which rules Gaza, warned Israel of “consequences for the aggression”. On Monday, the soaring tensions resulted in Hamas launching rockets towards Israel, with Israel retaliating with their ongoing bombing and terrorism campaign against innocents in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas launched a barrage of missiles towards Israel this week. While most of them were intercepted by Israel’s air defense system, the few that passed through caused the death of 7 Israelis. Among them was a 6-year-old child who was killed by a rocket attack.
Israel, in retaliation, leveled several parts of Gaza, targeting landmark towers and residential homes, some by issuing warnings to evacuate and others not, in their ongoing air bombing raids in Gaza. Earlier this week, they also claim to have targeted buildings housing Hamas operational facilities in Gaza and killed top commanders of the militant organization.
The never-ending stream of bone-shattering shelling throughout harrowing nights and into the early hours of the following day have forced many residents to abandon their homes, fearing an air attack by the Israeli Air Force. Over 2 million civilians live in Gaza city, where 41% are children under 14 years while 22% are between 18-29 years old. More than 70% of the population are refugees that have been dispossessed. Gaza, being home to over 2 million inhabitants ghettoized into a compact city, ruled by a militant organization and blocked by Air, Water, and Road, does not have a bomb shelter for the innocents. Many of those forced to move out of their homes have sought refuge in UN schools as the bombardment engulfs the city.
The northern #Gaza this Night.
— HosamSalem (@HosamSalemG) May 14, 2021
More photos of displaced Palestinians from Gaza’s eastern area leaving their way homes on foot.
Insert a line about the Nakba never having stopped here. https://t.co/qiXROCBKTk
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) May 13, 2021
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) May 13, 2021
The belligerent Israeli offensive has desecrated livelihoods in an economy already trembling on its knees. In addition, Israeli settlers, armed to the tooth and backed by the insouciance of the Israeli Police, have threatened and vandalized Palestinian lives and livelihood in parts of the occupied West Bank. The escalation of Israel’s offensive comes on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr, as Muslims around the world celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
— Aleesha Khaliq (@a_leesha1) May 13, 2021
My cousin sent me this clip taken by a neighbor saying “we lived through this hell for almost half an hour. We are already dead”
As I’m posting this he updated “the bombing is back” pic.twitter.com/SozN0FZuQt
— Walaa Al Ghussein (@WalaaGh) May 13, 2021
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) May 13, 2021
Unfettered shelling by the Israeli Air Force, throughout Thursday night into the early hours of Friday morning, saw several casualties in Gaza, amongst which a family was reported to be buried in rubble following an Israeli airstrike. A woman and her three children were said to have been killed by an airstrike adding to the death toll; medical services eventually retrieved their bodies after an ambulance was prevented from entering the northern part of Gaza due to the bombarding. Both the media and the medical services have not entered the city due to the constant airstrikes.
The scale of devastation in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza Strip from last night pic.twitter.com/t7izDzgGBy via @itamer83
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) May 14, 2021
Israeli Settlers continued targeting Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank earlier today. Reports of a young boy being injured after being hit on the thigh by a stray bullet. In the early hours of Friday morning, protests erupted across the occupied West Bank, denouncing the Israeli operation in Gaza. The youth took to the streets, chanting, “Al-Aqsa is calling, Gaza is calling, Lydd is calling, o people of my country, unite.”
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) May 14, 2021
مسيرة حاشدة في جنين نصرةً للقدس وغزة عند الساعة 3 فجر اليوم. pic.twitter.com/kIY2cYaCnG
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) May 14, 2021
The Palestinian population in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank have long been subject to Zionists’ cruelty and heinous barbarianism, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), armed colonial settlers and the Israeli Government, as a whole. ‘Nakba’, a term used by the Palestinians to refer to the events of 1948, wherein over 540 towns and villages were massacred, leaving millions of Palestinians internally displaced, owing to the formation of Israel, has made its way into popular discourse communicating that the ‘Nakba’ never ended and has been ongoing since the formation of Israel.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NAC and NAC does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
We Shouldn’t Celebrate Daughter’s Day
“Roses are red, Violets are blue, Let’s smash the patriarchy, Me and You.”
The above mentioned controversial lines written on a notorious Movie star t-shirt got the limelight in the past few days, whatever the logic or message behind this, but one message for sure is right that not only patriarchy is the issue a daughter has to deal with. There are ‘N’ No. of things an Indian daughter has to face and suffer to remark on her journey and come out as a strong individual. Just celebrating a daughter’s day won’t be enough to hide the raucous sounds of injustice and unfair societal norms. But before making the attention towards the issues, let’s know a bit about the Daughter’s Day.
Why, Where, and When Daughter’s Day is celebrated?
Every year the Fourth Sunday of September is celebrated as Daughters’ Day in our nation, India. World Daughters’ Day is celebrated on September 28th. The origin of the day is unknown, but it was started in India to end the stigma attached to girl children and promote equality in the gender. Government launched very schemes and policies for the girl child made by our governments like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Balika Samridhhi Yojana, CBSE Udaan Scheme, Dhanalakshmi Scheme, National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education just with one motive for girl empowerment. But do we empower them?
Let’s know why we don’t have the right to celebrate a pious day like daughter’s day.
According to NCRB data released in the year 2018, despite various federal government campaigns such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao – Educate the daughter, Save the daughter – the crime rate per 100,000 women increased to 58.8% in 2018 in comparison with 57.9% in 2017. Crime ranging from the so-called eve-teasing to outright sexual harassment on the street, workplace, or even at their own houses, to harassment for dowry, molestation in public transport like buses, auto, and the often-reported rape, these crimes against women reflect the vulnerability of crime against women. All this doesn’t end here only; the issue moves further when it comes to gender inequality because that is what our poor society is still weaving its net on.
One side, we keep engaging about placing Goddess above all god. On the other side, we are stripping them mentally and physically. We want to see women ruling; the pink flag should be unfurled at the red fort, but what about if that pink flag belongs to your family. It is then an issue because ‘Ladkio ko Jyada nahi bolna chahiye, they are made to be calm and silent. They should know all work because that is what our legacy is teaching us for so many years. We have exemplary women out there who are ruling the world whether it is armed forces, politics, corporates, business, movies, sports, or teaching; women are marking their name on every field brick but still on the ground level, they are still treated as a gender which belongs to production of a child and marrying to a man, by whom name she will be known for her life irrespective of how much she has done in her life.
Leave these societal issues, might be we all will justify it by vilifying with rituals and customs. But what about rape cases, dowry cases, domestic violence, and above all, this girl child sexual harassment. Would we bring out a child who has suffered or faced any of the above mentioned mental harassment, Do policies, empowerment, and examples change anything for them? Answer, we all know. How is a family responsible if they brought up their girl child as equal as their sons? How is a girl at fault if she is well to do than a man in her life? How is a girl responsible if she likes to wear shorts more than a Salwar-Kameez? OH! YES, last but not least, how another woman is responsible is a woman who can’t take the limelight given to her or didn’t support her being unaware of the former one’s situation.
A vagina or an overbust body is not only what her identity is; she is much more than what you think and can do more considerable than you can ever think of. When she speaks about equality, she doesn’t mean to be physically equal to you or fight with her in the ring; I afraid she can even do that and wash you off there as well, but when she talks about equality, she means equal opportunity in every field irrespective of demonstrating or calculating her abilities on the basis of her gender only.
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