‘Choke Slam’: Delhi Breathes Poison (again)

Developmental Modernity has it’s obvious limits. Air pollution is a complex, multi layered matter with no immediate need for political trigger as it is a regional matter. Delhi breathes poison for three months a year, then forgets it like the urban homeless deaths during winter. I was there last year and nothing has changed. Only crisis triggers our immediate needs.

All the social media activism will fall short as narrative echo chambers which flip from topic to topic. Social media is like a ever updated real time digital archive where the cache is the black box of media archeology. Arguments and online petitions land up in that black box. Environmental issues are protracted and need planning foresight. Air pollution from Beijing to the Riau Islands are issues that need the utmost public health attention. IPhone X gets more press than air pollution deaths.

Development is ofcourse needed and Environmental compliance is referred to as green tape to that development. The language we use to articulate environmental matters, frame it as a laggard, an impediment and a cost centre. We need to reimagine a discourse where sustainability will automatically refer to as liveability. Delhi will choke every year, unless measures are not taken year around. Images on my timeline with folks wearing N10 masks from 3M (certainly affluent) looks eerily similar to images from Beijing and Singapore. Asian Developmental Modernity is breaching it’s ecological limits. The sales guys at 3M are sleeping well. Crisis is capitalism’s opportunity to create perverse value.

The images remind me of a dystopian future which has arrived. Just think of the urban poor in Delhi. The person with the gamcha or the thin towel to wrap around the face is probably resigned to fate.


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