Delhi Resorts to Car Rationing to Address the Worst Pollution It is Facing

An Indian walks up to the stairs as Delhi's sky line is seen enveloped in smog and dust in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2019

Delhi Resorts to Car Rationing to Address the Worst Pollution It is Facing

  • As smog levels exceeded those of Beijing by more than three times, authorities also parked a van with an air purifier near the Taj Mahal
  • More than 600 police teams were deployed at road intersections in the capital with the power to hand out fines of 4,000 rupees (nearly $60) to transgressors

NEW DELHI: India’s national capital Delhi on Monday launched a car rationing system amidst menacing increase in the air pollution in the city. Under this system known as odd and even plan- a vehicle, depending on odd and even number plate, will run on the road on every alternate day . On Monday only those motors were allowed which had even number plate. Delhi has more than 6 million private vehicles and rationing system reduces vehicular traffic by more than 30% .

This system will remain in force till November 14.

Supreme Court however was not impressed with the steps the government has taken in addressing the worst pollution problem affecting around 40 million people living in Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR).On Monday it  came down heavily on the centre and the local government for not doing enough to address the issue of  pollution which is affecting “the fundamental right to life”.

"The time has come to fix responsibility for the situation that is destroying the Right to Life of citizens in gross violation of Article 21 of the constitution. Everybody has to be answerable”, said the highest court in a hearing.

The apex court questioned the efficacy of the car rationing and asked whether such rationing in past has yielded any result.

“What are you achieving by odd and even?”, questioned the court.

The court ordered to stop all construction and demolition activities in Delhi and adjoining areas and fixed a fine of $1350 for any burning of garbage.

It asked the neighbouring states of Panjab and Haryana to stop the burning of crop stubbles which many environmentalist believes is one of the main reasons for the deteriorating air quality in the national capital region.

"Stubble burning must stop. Both Centre and the state must do this. People are dying. The sad thing is that everyone in this country is interested in gimmicks," the court said while hearing a petition from the pollution control body Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).

On Monday according to Delhi based US Embassy the levels of particulates measuring less than 2.5 microns -

 PM 2.5 were 613 micrograms per cubic metre of air which is way above the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended safe daily maximum of 25. The tiny particulars enter the respiratory system and cause long term problem to the health.

At several places in Delhi the Air Quality Index (AQI)  reached 900 mark on Monday mark which is considered to be hazardous. By evening it was hovering around 289 which is also described as “ highly unhealthy”.

Generally an AQI level between 0 to 50 is considered good. 

Most of the schools in Delhi and adjoining areas are closed till Tuesday. Some 5 million masks have been distributed in schools to protect the students.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

 Medical practitioners in Delhi say that 

“air pollution at this level poses serious risk to the respiratory systems of the general population”.
In the last three weeks, the number of patients visiting with respiratory problem has seen a sizable jump due to the deteriorating air quality”, says Dr Loveleen Mangla, a leading pulmonologist in the Metro Hospital and Cancer Institute, Noida, a suburb of Delhi.

“ It’s not that the people with chronic respiratory problems are coming to me those who have no history of lung problems are also visiting me now and most of them are young”, Mangla tells Arab News.

He adds that “if the pollution is not controlled then pregnant women also face the risk of passing on respiratory problem to the foetus. So the problem can become chronic”. 

“ I ask my patients to remain inside most of the time and avoid exposure outside”, he says.

Environmentalist V Selvarajan and founder of Green Circle, an NGO working in the area of air pollution, says that “ car rationing system is a good move but this cannot solve the problem”.

“ I don’t blame stubble burning for this crisis. Environment has not got any territory. The problem is affecting the whole of North India. We should have a comprehensive plan and address the issue in its entirety , says Selvarajan.

“Vehicular traffic is too much in Delhi. The capital city has more vehicles than all the three metro cities in India combined together. Naturally the pollution would be higher and we need to regulate that”, adds the environmentalist.

He tells Arab News that “people should change their mindset and start using public transport more”.

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)

Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”