‘I Suffer From Chronic Chest Congestion Due To Delhi Air’

Mohd Kayam, a security guard in Delhi-NCR is living with chest congestion and cough. Medicines are a staple for him. More than himself, he is worried about his children, who are always suffering from cold and cough. He wonders if we can ever get our blue skies back

I clearly remember as kids, we used to count stars while sleeping on the terrace of our house in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Now, a shroud of haze blankets the beautiful spread of stars that the universe laid out for us. I don’t remember when was the last time I saw stars like those. I am sure not many people in Delhi-NCR can recall it either. I feel sorry for the generation born now — would they know of stars only through nursery rhymes?

Can we ever get our blue skies back? I am a security guard. Every day, I am exposed to polluted air and harsh weather. As a precaution, I wear a mask, but I don’t know if it is actually of any use. After completing my 12-hours, when I go back home, wash my face and rinse my mouth, the sink turns black. Over the years, my health has deteriorated. It takes an effort to breathe. My chest is always congested and medicines have become a staple.

I have visited Lal Bahadur Hospital and local doctors in the past for treatment. What worries me the most is the health of my children. Children now have a compromised immunity. Air pollution is killing children and we are helpless. I have noticed that people living in high-rise apartments have stopped sending their kids to play in the open.

Air pollution has snatched away their childhood. It was never like this when we were young. We used to spend hours playing in the ground and even in mud. Smog has forced parents to keep their kids locked inside their homes. Parks, tennis and badminton courts are lying vacant. Only some senior citizens come for walks. It is just not about Delhi, people living in other parts of the country are also complaining of pollution-related issues. The situation is apocalyptic and I do not know if we have the power or capability to reverse the damage that has already been done. Companies are minting money selling masks and purifiers and the time is not too far when we will have to pay for clean air. 

'Life As An NCR Uber Driver Is A Struggle'

Being an Uber driver in Delhi-NCR is not an easy call. Ask Bhabani, who took a bank loan to buy a mid-size sedan a year ago and ride the Uber wave to a happy life. Initially, the going was good; he could pocket ₹25,000 every month. But as completion grew, his work hours went up and earnings dived. After paying up the loan instalment, house rent and the company commission, Bhabani barely makes to feed his family of three.   Everybody thinks that we Uber drivers have it made. We drive fairly new cars; we have GPS-enabled devices that help us navigate our vehicles; and we, at least most of us, look happy. But as Uber makes life easier for you, for us it has become harder. There are at least 1.5 lakh Uber cabs registered in Delhi. And an equal number of Ola cabs too. That means making a living from driving cabs is all about extra long hours and shrinking earnings. Just to give you an idea, consider this: If you want to go from Gurgaon’s Galleria Market to Cybercity, an Uber can take you there for as little as ₹69. Do you know what an autorickshaw will charge you? ₹100. The Hyundai Accent I have is a year old. I paid ₹6.55 lakh for it for which I took a ₹4.6-lakh loan. My monthly loan payments are ₹13200 for four years. There are other regular monthly payments that I have to make: Rs. 3000 as toll tax; about ₹1000 every day to Uber in commission; and fuel costs (I use CNG so that is about ₹15000 a month). If I take the car out at 6.30 am and work till 9.30 pm, after paying Uber and all the other costs, I usually end up with ₹16-18,000 a month. I have a wife and a five-year-old child and we live in a small room in Delhi’s Dakshinapuri. I pay a rent of ₹4000. That leaves us around ₹12-14,000 on which to live. Things used to be different when I started out a year back. Uber offered good incentives and I could make around ₹25000 a month. But those good days are gone. There are too many of us on the roads now and the company has cut down all those incentives. All through the day I have to struggle to make even ₹2500 on trips. Every time a customer orders an Uber, there are at least five or six cars in the fray to capture that order. Then there’s the competition from Ola. I have a friend who works 24 hours at a stretch to make ends meet. He starts his day at 5 am, works till 5 am the next morning, and then sleeps the next day before repeating the same schedule the next day. He’s 25 but looks like he’s 40! If I worked as a driver for someone, I think I could make more but now I’m stuck. I bought the car, have to pay back the loan, and I have to keep these long hours. Perhaps I should never have left my village in Tripura. (The author’s name has been changed to protect his identity; his version, based on an interview in Hindi, has been translated and edited by Lokmarg’s editors).]]>

‘Low-Cost Spa Workers Often Treated as Prostitutes’

Meenu, 32, moved from Manipur to Delhi a few years ago for better work prospects. She was lucky to find work at a reputed spa chain in the national capital region. That was a time when massage parlour business was mushrooming across NCR and she was soon offered better salary and ‘perks’ by a lesser known spa. “That was the biggest mistake of my life,” Meenu tells LokMarg.

Seven years back, when I moved to Delhi from Manipur, I was happy to be selected for training as a therapist by an international wellness chain. The group had branches in south Delhi, west Delhi, and NCR. I was posted in their Noida unit and was happy with the HR policies of the spa management.

Although we had an eight-hour shift, we were allowed to decline more than five hours of therapy sessions. If the number of sessions exceeded five hours, we would get incentives. Yes, there would be odd clients who asked for various favours, like ‘happy ending’ (a term used for masturbation performed at the end of a massage therapy), but we had management support in walking out on such clients.

Yet, most of the therapists obliged ‘decent’ clients for a ‘generous tip’. Things changed when I switched job to another local spa for want of better pay. This is when I realized the dark practices in those low-cost massage parlours that were mushrooming all over the city and offered services at half the cost, sometimes even lower, than the more organized establishments.

The high cost in my previous group discouraged or filtered the ill-intentioned clients. But in the new unit, I would meet patrons who made lewd passes, enjoyed talking dirty, flashed their genitals (often refused to wear the disposable underwear) and offered money for fellatio and ‘home-services’.

At times, some of them will take advantage of Valentine’s Day offers, come with a female partner and used the premises as ‘love nest’. When I complained about a certain regular client about his unruly behavior to the manager, the response was shocking.

The manager asked me insensitively if he had raped me. ‘Keep quiet and don’t ruin the business. The competition is tough,’ he said. I soon learnt that most of my fellow therapists had little training about a human body or muscle relaxation. They were there only to give the ‘services in demand’.

I also learned their operational terminology: ‘B2B’ meant body-to-body massage, which meant lying over a client with minimal clothing; Topless meant the client will touch or fondle your naked breasts and; ‘Full Service’ meant sleeping with the client.

Massage was never the call a client came for. As soon as the door was locked (in my previous spa centre, the door was closed but never locked) the deal would begin between the ‘therapists’ and the patron. It was nothing short of organized prostitution. The clients looked at you as if they were examining a commodity before purchase. I felt cheap.

I took leave and started negotiating with my previous employer for a return. They asked me to wait as they were facing low clientele due to tough completion. Then one day, my former manager called up to tell me that two of their therapists had left and there was a vacancy.

My first reaction was to call those who had left the job and ask them if they were joining some low-cost ‘massage parlour’; I wanted to tell them the risks involved. But, I let it be. We all learn about the perils of easy money our own hard way.

(The names of the therapist and her employers have been withheld at her request by LokMarg)

Hold your breath, folks! 'Emergency' in Delhi air

Also Read A problem that refuses to go away

“At present, the wind speed is a low 1.8 miles per second. The winds blowing from the north have helped in the temperature drop,” an official at the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told IANS. On Thursday, major pollutant PM2.5 (particles suspended in air with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers) was above 300 units across the NCR, with Vasundhara in Ghaziabad and Anand Vihar in east Delhi the most polluted areas.
More Clean air only if Modi & Kejriwal join hands

According to data from the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, PM2.5 concentration at Anand Vihar at 3 p.m. on Thursday was 491 units and at Ghaziabad 550 units — 19 to 22 times higher than the international standards. Air quality is designated severe plus or emergency if PM2.5 concentration is above 300 units or PM10 is above 500 units. The international safe limit for PM2.5 is 25 microgrammes per cubic metre as against the national standard of 60 units.
Act now for improved air quality in 15-20 years

If the air quality situation prevails for more than 48 hours with either of the two major pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10) above the red mark, the Supreme court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority brings in severe plus category restrictions under the graded response action plan. The curbs include a ban on the entry of trucks and construction activities in the city, implementation of odd-even road rationing scheme and closure of schools. (IANS)


    (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) // ]]>

Winter drizzle improves Delhi-NCR air to 'poor'

The air quality of Delhi-NCR improved from “very poor” to “poor” on Tuesday even after 7.8 mm rainfall over past 24 hours, but is liken to worsen again, said officials. According to the officials, the reason for not enough improvement is only a slight dip in high level of pollutants already present in the air here, along with a hike in moisture and s drop in temperature. On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi at 4 pm was 219 or “poor” against 361 or “very poor” on Monday at the same time. “There is improvement but not enough, as rains had reduced the density of effluents however the moisture content is high,” Shambhavi Shukla, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and member of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority told IANS. According to experts, the mixing height of pollutants have increased a bit, which will however not help with improvement of air quality due to low wind speed and moisture levels. “This is certainly not a reason to celebrate.. the air quality is still poor,” Shukla added. According to the forecast received by EPCA from India Meteorological Department (IMD), the scope of considerable improvement in the region’s air quality are still low. On December 7, even as the drizzling was way too low compared to that between Monday and Tuesday, the AQI of the national capital improved to “moderate” from “very poor” earlier, due to the meteorological conditions. The most polluted regions across NCR, including Vasundhra in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Sector 125 in Noida and Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi saw “very poor” air quality despite rains, with the major pollutants PM2.5 or particles with air with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers ranging between 123 to 194. This is four to seven times the safe limit as per international standards. The maximum temperature on Tuesday dropped to 21.7 degree Celsius, two notches below the season’s average, against 27.2 on Monday. However the minimum temperature increased to 13.8 degrees, five notches above the season’s average, against 8.2 degrees on Monday. According to IMD, the temperature drop is likely due to cumulative meteorological reasons. “Wednesday would see minimum temperature of about 10 degrees, while the maximum is likely to hover around 21 degrees,” an IMD official told IANS. The national capital saw low speed dry and cold north-westerly winds blowing at around 6 kmph, however despite this, humidity increased on Tuesday ranging between 71 to 100 percent. “There are no chances of rains in Delhi-NCR as of Tuesday night,” said IMD, adding that the high moisture would however lead to dense fog towards Wednesday morning. This is a reason that air pollution is most likely to shoot back, according to the monitoring agencies. According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), Delhi-NCR air quality is set to deteriorate from Wednesday onwards, with aggregate 91 (poor) PM2.5 levels on Tuesday to 118 units or “poor” on Wednesday and 127 units on Friday, considered “very poor”.

(IANS) // ]]>

It didn't last long: Delhi all smogged out again

The improvement in the air quality turned out to be short-lived as Delhi-NCR started inhaling toxins again with virtually no winds and cases of stubble burning in the national capital itself on Sunday.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi saw a considerable drop in the air quality, with Air Quality Index (AQI), recorded at 4 p.m on Sunday, reporting 377 or “very poor”, against 305 “very poor” on Saturday and 217 or “poor” on Friday. The AQI at Ghaziabad (448) and Noida (415) were back to severe after two days of a breather on Saturday and Friday. The level of major pollutant PM2.5, or particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, across Delhi-NCR at 6 p.m. was 241, while in Delhi alone, it was 237 units — about nine times the safe limit as per international standards. The air quality was placed “severe plus” at Anand Vihar (PM2.5 at 389) in east Delhi; Delhi Technical University (PM2.5 at 332) in north Delhi; Sector 125, Noida (304) and Vasundhara in Ghaziabad (367). Meanwhile, at R.K Puram in south Delhi, the air quality was severe with PM2.5 at 6 p.m. recorded at 271. The safe limit for PM2.5 according to the international standard is 25 microgrammes per cubic metre and 60 by national standards. Meanwhile, the satellite images from NASA showed spordic incidents of stubble burning in regions in Delhi itself as well as regions across Punjab, Harayana and Uttar Pradesh. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Delhi saw no winds on Sunday, a possible reason for sudden increase in the pollutants. “There had been no wind in Delhi as observed during 2.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. on Sunday. The previous wind direction was southerly which is moist in nature, however at present with no winds. direction could not be assessed,” an IMD official told IANS.  
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Delhi-NCR gets normal air after two months

With air quality in Delhi-NCR finally improving to “moderate” due to the meteorological conditions, pollution monitoring agencies say it is the first December in three years that the national capital has inhaled “normal” air.

On Thursday, Delhi and the region around it saw a “moderate” air quality with the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 194 in Delhi at 4 p.m. It was consistent till 9 p.m. This is the first time that normal air quality was seen across Delhi-NCR since October 7 this year, while it is first December to have normal air in the last three years, officials said. “The wind speeds are up and it also drizzled at places, beside for past two days, we ensured curbing of extra emissions from burning of garbage, controlling fire at landfill sites and by water sprinkling,” A. Sudhakar, Member Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), said.

AAP govt takes U-turn on odd-even scheme

Within 24 hours of its assurance to launch the next round of odd-even scheme without exemptions, the Delhi government on Thursday made a U-turn and filed a review petition at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking exemptions again. On Wednesday, the Delhi government’s counsel assured the Tribunal that it would bring the odd-even scheme as directed by the green court, which includes no exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers. “The government wants to implement odd-even with exemptions… We have filed a review plea,” the Delhi government counsel said here after the bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar asked its stand on the scheme. Earlier in November, when the Delhi-NCR faced “severe-plus” or “emergency” air quality situation that calls for implementation of the odd-even scheme under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), the NGT directed the Delhi government to implement the road rationing scheme without any exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers. The matter will be heard on Friday. Observing that the air quality in Delhi and NCR was never “normal”, the Tribunal had earlier also directed the Delhi government and neighbouring states to spell out their action plans and how they would implement the GRAP, given the severity of the air quality. The Delhi government’s plan recommends implementation of odd-even plan, check on entry of trucks in the city, ban on construction work and asking parents not to allow their children to play outside when air quality turns “severe”.
Sudhakar added that efforts were bolstered in the last two days as the national capital hosted cricket matches where Sri Lankan players seen on the field wearing masks. “Officials were posted at all the landfill sites to actively check any incident of fire and it was doused within hours. Earlier, it would take civic bodies 48 hours to douse such a fire. Besides, the stubble burning totally stopped,” Sudhakar added. On Thursday, the most polluted regions including Vasundhra in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, Anand Vihar in east Delhi and Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi saw normal air quality, ranging between “poor to moderate” since over 70 days as per records. The level of major pollutant PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, at 9 p.m. was 88 across Delhi, while in Delhi NCR it was 87 against 254 and 261 on Tuesday. The safe limit for PM2.5 according to International standards is 25 microgrammes per cubic meters and 60 units as per national standards. “There could be more Decembers, but we began monitoring in 2015, since then it’s for the first time when air quality has reached moderate,” the official added. (IANS) // ]]>

Delhi air pollution fails cricket Test at Kotla

Really sad state this, when they have to come out and play with masks on. And to think about the people who go through this plight on a daily basis. Pictures compare the AQI in #Delhi with that in #Trivandrum and #SriLanka. #INDvSL #DelhiSmog pic.twitter.com/ViCuXG2OcP

— Govind Sreekumar (@realGovindS) December 3, 2017 As Delhi air quality deteriorated and it became hazy just after the lunch, umpires discussed the issue with the players and the match was halted for around 15 minutes. The national capital woke up to a cold-polluted Sunday morning with minimum temperature recorded at 8 degrees Celsius, a notch below the season’s average and a “very-poor” air-quality. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the sky will remain partly clouded with the maximum temperature likely to hover around 26 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile the major pollutant concentration PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers across Delhi-NCR at 9 a.m. was 218 units—eight times more than the safe limit. According to the Central Pollution Control Authority (CPCB), the air-quality fell under “severe-plus or emergency” levels at Anand Vihar in west Delhi with PM2.5 reaching 433 in the morning—17 times the safe limit, sector 125 Noida and Vasundhara in Ghaziabad. In Delhi, Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi and R.K Puram in south-west Delhi fell under “severe” air-quality. While monitoring agencies predict the air-pollution situation to worsen over days, respite is likely towards Tuesday with possibilities of light rains. “The national capital is likely to witness light rainfall on Tuesday, which may improve the air-quality,” an IMD official said. (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) (with IANS) // ]]>