Ranjona Banerji: Eat Carrots, Fight Pollution. Ha!

05 Nov,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


Air pollution in the National Capital Region has taken precedence over other news this week. The pollution is terrible, no question about that. Over 1000 on the Air Quality Index on Sunday, when anything above 500 is seen as extremely harzardous. Schools have been closed, people have been asked to stay indoors, people have also been asked to eat carrots (BJP minister), blame has been apportioned between Diwali firecrackers, stubble burning, vehicular pollution and to some small extent, construction-related pollution.

So where does the media come in? Politically, to draw attention away from the possible negligence by the Central government and the great Prime Minister and focus on Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. As the media well knows, Kejriwal has limited powers since Delhi is not a real state and cannot fix the situation by himself. But the question: What are Narendra Modi and the Centre doing is only asked by the few scant members of the anti-national media that remain.

The biggest elephant in the room is the constant environmental damage being done to India by this government’s lax attitude when it comes to preservation and conservation and its policy to allow “development” at all and any cost. Is Prakash Javadekar still the Union Environment Minister? He spends so much time recommending music and attending seminars on how to create environmental damage that it’s hard to know really. How many “TV debates” have we had on the environment compared to “Hindus are in danger” for instance? It’s not that winter smog in North India is something new. Most important TVwallah types live in the NCR. And it’s not as if “Hindus” are not in danger when they breathe toxic air.

For the media however, there are two obsessions here. One, the obsession with Delhi and its immediate environs. And two, to continue to save the BJP at any cost. So the shared blame for “doing nothing” is placed on Kejriwal and Amarjeet Singh of Punjab (stubble burning). Stubble burning also happens in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh but both are BJP-ruled states, so we go back to Obsession 1. Most of North India is also badly affected by hazardous air quality but the focus is on the NCR.

As an aside, even where I live in Dehradun, the foothills of the Himalayas, the air was particularly bad post-Diwali. But 1, outside the media target area and 2, BJP-ruled state, so we suck it up.

Basically, air pollution is a media problem when it’s so poisonous that you cannot go out in it. Sustained pressure round the year (whaaat?), crowd sourcing ideas (what rubbish, Hindus are in danger), campaigns to cut down on fire-crackers (you are anti-Hindu, so I will burn more), investigating the problems farmers have (yaaaawwn), holding industry to account (ha, where will the adds come from), facing vehicular pollution (car sales, they drive the economy and boo hoo, anti-national people say they are down), these are suggestions so boring I can see your eyes glazing over. Doubt media owners will allow them either!

The poor Delhi government’s “odd-even” scheme gets endless flak when it is put into operation every year to limit vehicular use; the BJP must be laughing its head off that it is never held so stringently to account for anything, not even the current death and misery in Kashmir, by most of the Indian media.

So, eat carrots and listen to music. I didn’t say that. They did.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal



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