LOK ISSUES
LOK ISSUES

‘Kids Can’t Go To School On Children’s Day Due To Smog’

Ajay Dev Singh, 40, a parenting counsellor based in New Delhi, is at pains to see his two young daughters suffering from breathing disorders and sore eyes

The other day I overheard my four-year old speaking with her friend in our gated community playground (the schools had been closed after Delhi government orders) and guess what they were talking about? Yes, pollution! What have we done? We have created an atmosphere where four-year olds discuss ‘pollution’ and 16-year-olds (Greta Thunberg) talk about ‘solution’ (for climate change). What are we grown-ups doing?

Well, many of us are trying to live sustainable lives and doing everything not to harm the environment, right from reducing plastic usage, segregating waste, recycling water etc. But on the other side the majority of us don’t care about the condition of the city they live in.

Despite so many news channels and newspapers talking about reducing the usage of crackers, there were many parents in our neighbourhood who were encouraging their children to burst crackers late on Diwali night.

I live in Dwarka which is almost on the outskirts of Delhi and I wonder what the condition of the children in the heart of the polluted city must be. It was difficult to see my four- & six-year old girls suffering because of the pollution.

Parali (stubble) burning in Punjab isn’t something we as residents living in Delhi- NCR can control, but not burning crackers is something that is our decision. It has been over a month now and both my daughters continue to have running noses, itchy eyes and laboured breathing.

My six-year old knows what’s going on and as part of a school project on letter-writing, she wrote a letter to the Delhi CM about the high levels of pollution. And by that I don’t mean setting up an oxygen bar where people can breathe clean air for some time. I mean doing something where the whole city feels like one big oxygen bar. This is the capital city of our country; what signals are we sending to the rest of the world? Seeing kids play their innocent games wearing masks feels like I am living in a dystopian and weird setting.

I was just thinking about how when we were kids in the 80s-90s, people would go to see new gadgets purchased by a particular family. Often it would be new TV set, and now perhaps we go to the homes of people who have bought air purifiers. Frankly, the kids are tired of sitting inside and even then we have to keep the windows closed many a times. Is this the price we have to pay to live?

And what about kids who live on the streets, who don’t even have homes where they can find refuge from the toxic air for some time? What about children who have to live on picking rags? My young kids ask about how other kids and animals who live on the streets are faring in such a condition. I came to Delhi to do my graduation in the late 90s and lived here till 2010 after which I shifted to Mumbai. Work brought us back to Delhi again in 2014.

Frankly, till 2010 the condition wasn’t so bad and I think it is because of the burning of parali by farmers that is wreaking such a havoc on Delhi air. I have read in-depth about this matter and I got to know that earlier the farmers would decompose the parali in water and that would not pollute the air but it would reduce the groundwater level drastically and summers would be unbearable because of this.

So it is like being caught between the devil and the deep sea. Both Centre and state governments need to look deeply into the matter and find a solution urgently otherwise our kids will continue to suffer. Our world be bereft of their laughter if they are constantly cooped up in their homes and don’t get to play. Kids can only ask for change, but it is only the grown-ups who have the power to bring about change.

I received a letter from the school principal in which she mentioned that she was missing the children for whom the whole school had been decorated for Children’s Day and a film festival had been organized. That is sad, woefully sad. Our children are losing out on beauty and art and the joy of growing up. Soon we will have more days when the children won’t be able to go to school.

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