#NRC – ‘Being A Muslim, I’ve My Documents In Place’

National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a contentious issue. Those Muslims, or anyone for that matter, who are worried about NRC must keep themselves well-informed and keep all the relevant documents ready. If people keep themselves well-informed, the panic will not get much ground to spread. Many people try to get information at the eleventh hour, which sometimes becomes a futile exercise. People should be well-prepared to avoid last-minute hassles and confusion. 

My family and I are concerned but no longer worried about being able to provide documents required for NRC, were that to take place in our state too. The previous governments have made us well aware of having the importance of right documents. Also as an engineer I understand the importance of organizing data. 

It might come as a surprise, but I supported Modi during the 2014 elections. In fact, I even took the online membership of BJP. The party was able to sell Gujarat’s development story well. However, now I don’t support BJP, because of the pain I feel every time I hear of a lynching incident. BJP is all about divisive politics.

Policies like NRC are not at all inclusive. They are not being implemented in consultation with the people who will be affected by it the most. There should have been awareness campaigns about NRC. It should have been implemented in a phased manner. People’s fears should have been alleviated. It is shameful how things are being carried out. 

If NRC is implemented in the South of India, I feel communities will help each other out, as people here are more trusting as compared to north India.  Also, literacy levels, self-regulation, and discipline amongst both citizens and authorities etc. is much better in the south. My mother and another relative teach students from economically weaker sections at government schools. Almost all students have their documents in place. 

People are more wary of NRC in northern India. I feel the region is more communally charged up. I, myself, have felt unsafe in some of the smaller towns there. The light of education needs to reach every part of the country if we want to live in peace. Education teaches us to walk in other people’s shoes by sharing the stories of others with us.

I try my level best to contribute towards strengthening the social fabric by sometimes teaching kids on weekends as well as talking to others about social issues and sharing my stories to let people know we are all the same in the end. I hope that makes a difference!

‘Our Lungs Must Be Full Of Black Tar’

I was 25 years old when I joined the force (Delhi Police). It was a proud moment for my family from a small village in Rewari, Haryana. In the last two decades, I have worked in various arms of Delhi Police and I can tell you without hesitation that to work as a traffic policeman in Delhi is one of the worst jobs in the world. Many people opt for traffic posting for easy money. This is partly true also but I ask you which government department carries out its duties honestly! Corruption is in India’s genes, sir ji.

Working on the road in a city which is the world’s most polluted cities (current data does not support this argument but Delhi has been among the world’s top polluted metropolitan cities). I can tolerate the heat of May-June in Delhi but the pollution in the winter is a slow poison that we breathe ten hours daily.

If I go to a medical laboratory to get my lungs checked, you will not find blood in it, you will find only black tar. Take a look at my facial skin, I look ten years older than my age today. Even when we use face masks and follow advisories to battle the smog, the effect of a day’s work in the open is telling. There are black strains when we cough the sputum, our eyes water and our faces wear a dark film of soot. And this when I have served in Traffic Police for only nine years.  Think of those who have served here longer.

There are many issues that I face other than smog and foul air. At times in the night, I hear loud horns. I have often woken up with flashlights blinding my eyes. I don’t know how long I can survive in such working conditions. Our colleagues often joke that none of us will be able to enjoy our retirement benefits. If we will not be run over by a speeding vehicle, we shall die of choked lungs. This light joke has a dark truth behind it.

If you take your medical issues to your seniors, they give a sympathetic hearing but do little. Governments keep bringing new rules, from CNG for commercial vehicles to Odd-Even traffic for passengers. I am not sure these are a permanent solution to air pollution. The newspapers are full of ill effects of air pollution in the city. TV channels routinely scream about the poison in the air, but our policymakers do not have to work outdoors. Modi ji se kaho ek poora din Dilli ke sadak par khade rah kar dikhao, sab samajh me aa jayega (Ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stay on Delhi roads for one full workday; he will then realise the gravity of the situation.)

(The name of the policeman was changed on request)

‘Pollution Control Mustn’t Be Limited To One Day – Diwali’

Amit Jain, 43, owner of Ajit Fireworks in Delhi, wonders why green crackers supply was not put firmly in place before banning regular firecrackers. He believes pollution control must not be limited to just one day of the year.

For three generations, my family has been in the fireworks business. Since 2017, the sales of firecrackers have been going down steadily. After the Supreme Court ruling regarding green crackers last year, we and many others in the business were hoping that sales would revive. However, the market is seeing a tremendous shortage of green crackers.

It is so disheartening to see children coming to our shops with expectant faces and going back disappointed because either there are no green crackers at all or even when they are available, one can only choose between phuljhadi and anaar. Clearly, the supply lines of green crackers are dry, and variety even worse.

I often wonder why people, most importantly environmental activists, try to solve any problem only at the surface level. There is no denying the fact that Delhi-NCR is seeing unprecedented levels of pollution, and the situation gets worse in early winter months, which is also the festival season. But the government and activists should work in a focussed manner towards population control.

Pollution doesn’t happen by itself, people create pollution. It is more important to educate people and give them alternatives – like ensuring proper supply of green crackers across cities – before introducing such a drastic measure. Buyers and sellers both wait for festivals to celebrate life. What good is a festival like Diwali without some fireworks?

Currently, Delhi’s population stands at 2.9 crores and the amount of waste generated is huge, creating water and air pollution. That should be taken more seriously the whole year round, rather than curbing emissions on a single day. When we provide better infrastructure to the people living in a city, people also take care of the city and try to solve its many problems. So if people really want to have an eco-friendly Diwali, may I suggest they take care of the environment the whole year round and begin preparations a year in advance for Diwali celebrations!

And yes, I feel population explosion is the root cause of most social ills. Less people means there is more space for a person to express themselves in a healthy manner. When people are happy, environment is happy. I hope things will change for the better next year. Many fireworks makers from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu (the hub of fireworks business) have now been trained to make eco-friendly/green crackers that have low emission as well as low decibel levels. Next year we hope to have a better Diwali.

‘Third Dark Diwali In A Row For Firecracker Traders’

Harjeet Chawala, 40, a trader at Sadar Bazaar market in Delhi, says his business nosedived since the ban on crackers. 

Since childhood, Diwali for me has meant a host of festivities.  Firecrackers were an integral part of it, as our family has been selling them for years. Our business has largely been dependant on only one day -Diwali. We have had buyers for Chhat Puja and New Year’s Eve, but that was just a tiny fraction of our business. With the Supreme Court banning firecrackers and allowing only green crackers in the market, our business has gone for a toss. 

People in Delhi-NCR used to splurge on firecrackers, but now there is no enthusiasm in the market for Diwali. Delhiites have come a long way from competing with each other for bursting more crackers. I understand the environmental concerns. But I do not understand why the honourable Supreme Court has banned the sale of crackers and not their manufacturing. 

Green crackers, which the court has allowed are not available anywhere. Some merchants are selling them online, but they are not available anywhere in the wholesale market. People in the firecracker business have no idea about how they can be procured. We do not know how we can get a license for dealing in them. Whom do we approach for buying them in buk? 

A pack of green crackers is very expensive. You can find them online priced between Rs 300 and Rs 600 for a pack of six to 12 crackers. We heard that these crackers release smoke. Is there any license required to sell them? How can the online companies like Amazon and Flipkart sell them? Do they have a license for it? Are they safe to use?

The ban has left us with a string of unanswered questions. Even the government officials are confused. They don’t know the details about green crackers as many of them have never used or seen them.  We had many clients, mostly licensed shop-owners from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Now they are also buying crackers from the manufacturers directly as any consignment of firecrackers is not allowed in the national capital. Like previous two Diwalis, this festival too is going to be dark for us.

(Chawala did not wish to be photographed for this story)

Watch – Utensil Sales Fail To Pick Up This Dhanteras

A few days ahead of Diwali, shopkeepers at Deputy Ganj, North India’s largest metal utensil market, lament poor footfall this season. The sales are nearly 25 per cent less compared to last year, they tell LokMarg. Yet, they haven’t lost all hope yet.

‘Let Us All Work Towards A Green Diwali, Greener Delhi’

Babeetta Sakxena, 52, is a social entrepreneur based in Noida, Delhi-NCR, who has been working towards a pollution-free Diwali by sensitising people about environment. She shares her view on how going back to our roots will lead to a ‘green Diwali’.

I have been organising Green Diwali Bazaar at the Aga Khan Hall (a prime location for exhibition and niche bazaars) for the past three years and I must say that the attitude of people regarding pollution, especially due to the humongous amount of crackers burnt on Diwali, has undergone a sea change.

In fact, there are many people who want to celebrate a more environment-friendly Diwali but just don’t know how to or even if they know how to the products are not easily accessible. Right now as per news there’s a serious shortage of green crackers and people don’t know how to deal with it. They only need a little hand-holding and we are more than glad to provide sustainable products for Diwali.

However, even though green crackers still haven’t made their way into the markets, one of our initiatives called Back to Roots creates awareness about how some of our older traditions were worth their weight in gold when it came to protecting the environment.

I believe one does not need a law to be passed to protect the environment. In olden times, it was a way of life. And hence the Back to Roots initiative. Caring for the plants, trees and animals has been like caring for your family in this country. Everything from diyas to crackers could be disposed off easily.

The pollution scene in Delhi-NCR since 2016 has been particularly bad. This reaches its worst level on Diwali festival. Earlier, there were reports of how asthma patients would suffer terribly on Diwali, but now the whole winter season in Delhi-NCR has become difficult to bear. Add to that skin issues as well as problems like chronic fatigue because of pollution, the effects of which aren’t immediately visible, but take a heavy toll on people.

I am glad that the new Supreme Court ruling last year allows for the sale of only green crackers which have low emissions as well as low decibel levels. In fact, if I may suggest, we can perhaps do away with crackers altogether, green or not. Even if every person bursts a few crackers, it undoes months of pollution control measures (The current population of Delhi is 2.9 crores).

After all, Diwali is about letting your inner light shine bright and the crackers are just a ritualistic representation of that.

A child like Greta Thunberg has shown us the way to live a greener and cleaner life and we see many kids not wanting to buy crackers at all but trying to celebrate Diwali in other ways: like through music and food. And in my opinion caring for the environment is a bigger duty than patriotism or akin to it. If you really want to serve your nation, serve your environment.

‘Population Control Drive Must Not Target A Specific Community’

Anupendra Singh, 42, an advocate-cum-social worker from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh has worked with the marginalised sections of the society teaching them about the benefits of population control. While he agrees with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to the nation to adopt population control measures, he says that overpopulation is not limited to a specific community. While addressing the issue, the 90 crore Hindus living in India must be sensitised too.

I have been working towards empowering large sections of marginalized people for the past 15 years making them aware of the dangers of over-population. It is an issue close to my heart. I feel that overpopulation is the root cause of multiple problems.

The PM, during his Independence Day speech, said that population control is an act of patriotism and I totally agree with it. However, I would like to mention here that overpopulation is not a community-specific problem. India’s population is close to 130 crore, nearly 90 crore people are Hindus and 30 crore are Muslims and the rest belong to other faiths. When we talk about population control, we must reach out to the 90 crore Hindus, who form the major chunk of India’s population.

Over the years I have been part of several projects aimed at population control. We have organised numerous camps, workshops, which included both individual as well as group counselling sessions. People attended them in droves. I have found that several people are open to the idea of population control and family planning, but they do not know how to go about it in the face of societal pressure. However, there are many people who try to shrug it off saying:  Ye hamare ghar ka mamla hai. Hum dekh lenge. (This is our private matter, we can handle this on our own) 

They fail to understand that a family is the basic unit of the society, which is a part of a state, and that state is part of a country. A family unit is a microcosm of a nation. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s population lives on almost 2.5 percent of the world’s land area and the area per person is shrinking at a horrific pace. This shrinking physical space can lead to lawlessness and anti-social behaviour.

The unemployment rate is on the rise. With the sheer number of people we have in our country, even if people got employed, the quality of work they would get wouldn’t be good. So if we want a quality life for everyone, our first priority should be population control.

Irrespective of age, everyone should spread the message of population control. While the adults can adopt and endorse family planning measures, youngsters can just educate people informally or by volunteering with NGOs. I run two schools in Moradabad and I make sure that my teachers and principals utilise the assemblies by talking about how kids can contribute towards betterment of society.

Children come to us with queries, related to family planning and other social issues. The prime minister should understand that it is the bureaucracy, the MLAs and MPs, who are the most important cogs in the wheel, when it comes to population control. If population control is the patriotic duty of every citizen, then the bureaucracy and the elected representatives must ensure that people take it seriously.

They also need to understand why people go for large families (what their insecurities or fears are) and then work with them to eliminate those fears. However, if they just go for population control without understanding the basic reasons and emotions of people, it will only be a temporary solution.