Some Solutions to Combat Delhi Smog

Since the past decade, Delhi has been witnessing one of the world’s worst smog ever in October and November. Diwali and farmers are blamed every year for causing such a hazardous situation for the national capital. However, Delhi shies away from changing itself to solve the problem once and for all. It is easy to put the blame game on others, and do nothing. The Delhi Government has taken some steps to minimize air pollution, but it is usually too little too late.

More than the Delhi Government, the current infrastructure and apathy of the citizens towards the environment of Delhi are more responsible for the Great Smog. Many of Delhi’s power plants are located in the suburbs, which are completely closed during the smog period. Construction work that generates too much fly ash is also halted all across Delhi. Usually, the order from the Government comes after Delhi gets completely engulfed in smog. On the other hand, little changes in lifestyle and infrastructure could have worked better for Delhi, which exists in a place in other parts of the country. Some of them are listed below.

1)Use Delhi Metro :
Delhi metro is one of the quickest, cleanest, and easiest modes of transportation in Delhi. The carbon footprints of Delhi Metro is significantly lower than that of all other transportation. Delhi metro has expanded to connect every nook and corner of the national capital. Delhi metro over the years is increasingly becoming more and more eco-friendly by installing solar panels, providing buses and e-rickshaw, and even taxis for last-mile connectivity. Despite all the good efforts, Delhi metro is yet to attract every commuter across the city owing to its expensive ticketing costs. Kolkata metro may be an example of a cheap metro which attracted commuters from all classes due to its cheap rates.

2)Expand Delhi Suburban Railway :
Similar to the Delhi Metro, Delhi has a good network of railway lines towards the suburban cities of Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, and Meerut. However, most of the tracks are used for long-distance trains and freight trains. Delhi has a ring railway which remains completely disused today. Suburban services are unattractive to the citizens, having little or no interchange with major bus or metro stops. Delhi does not have a monorail, tram, or any other form of transit other than the metro. Thus reliant on the usage of roads is heavy, causing huge traffic jams. Local trains of Mumbai are a good example of how suburban railways are used by a large chunk of the city population.

3)Lack of Greenery :
Delhi never used to lack greenery despite being the capital of various dynasties and empires. The Mughals and even the British were fond of gardens and open spaces which serves not only as a place for recreation but also as a source of fresh air and oxygen. Delhi today has grown beyond its borders and has eaten down even the small pockets of greenery that remained. Today only the southern parts of Delhi have some open space, where big, old trees are being felled for fields, locally called maidans, for sports and yoga. Nearby cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur and Agra have significantly less pollution due to large areas of natural vegetation within the city boundaries.

4)Unreliable Bus Service :
Bus service across the city is not that reliable either, prompting most people to use either private cars or bikes for transportation. Private cars and bikes are the biggest sources of air pollution in the city. Chennai has an excellent network of bus service catering 80% of the local transportation. Buses in Delhi are usually off-route, unfriendly, infrequent, and irregular, apart from being expensive, causing most of the population to stay away from using them.

5)Promotion of Green Fireworks :
No steps have been taken by the Government to stop the sale of banned fireworks, which cause too much pollution. Green fireworks, on the other hand, release significantly lower amounts of pollutants, thus can curb the sudden spike in pollution levels just after Diwali. As green fireworks are a bit on the pricier side, most sellers do not sell them to attract more customers. The Government, instead of promoting green fireworks and banning the illegal, is confused about what rules to apply. Banning illegal fireworks and promoting green fireworks comes way too late when most crackers are sold, and the crackers are unclassified whether illegal or not. Assam and the north-eastern states are doing well in this regard strictly allowing only green fireworks to be sold.

We all need to join hands and save our environment. Can you suggest some measures to do so? Tell us in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Kashmir Issue – Bilateral or not?

According to the Shimla Agreement signed in 1972 between India and Pakistan, the Kashmir issue was to be solved bilaterally, without involving a third party. However, Pakistan seems to always forget that, and has time and again raised issues over Kashmir in the United Nations General Assembly and other international organizations. India every time has to remind Pakistan and the international organizations that Kashmir is a bilateral issue following the terms of the Shimla Agreement.

Every year at almost every international platform, Pakistan raked up the Kashmir issue since the signing of the 1972 Shimla Agreement. India has abided by the Accord and has never raised the issue on international platforms. On the contrary, India has always tried to reach an agreement with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and has initiated dialogues and round table conferences to solve the issue. However, Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism led to a temporary halt in dialogues in 2019. Like Pakistan, India could have raised the known fact that a big chunk of Kashmir is illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. According to the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh union territory and Pakistan occupied part is a part of India. Pakistan, right from independence has been the occupier and India has always maintained that Pakistani troops should vacate the occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many sovereign countries and international organizations have maintained that a referendum should decide the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, whether it would join India or Pakistan or remain independent. The third option is considered practically impossible as Kashmir is a mountainous country, with limited resources and is surrounded by three nuclear giants looking to occupy it. The referendum was a good option in the early stages of the conflict. However, to conduct a referendum, the prior event was that Pakistan had to withdraw its troops from Kashmir, which it never did. After 75 years, the referendum is hardly meaningful when Pakistan abolished the state subject rule in 1971 and made widespread demographic changes in the territory it occupies. Bilateral talk remains the one and only way to solve the dispute peacefully, which the rulers of Pakistan are never understanding.

Of late, India’s secretary at the United Nations General Assembly, Sneha Dubey, lashed out at Pakistan for harboring terrorists and inciting violence in the Kashmir region of India. She reminded the world that while championing its cause for Kashmir, Pakistan commits gross human rights violations and genocide against religious minorities and people of the part of Kashmir it occupies. She also urged Pakistan to respect the territorial integrity of India and vacate from the region it occupies.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Where are the Bihar Gold Mines?

Believe it or not, Bihar has the largest gold reserve in the country with a staggering 42.21% of the total gold reserve in the country. The second place is held by Rajasthan with nearly 25%. The traditional gold producing state, Karnataka is in third place with 21% of gold reserves. This was revealed a few weeks back when the National Minerals Inventory data on gold resources in the country was presented by the Union Minister of Mines, Coal and Parliamentary Affairs in reply to a question in the Parliament.

The question that comes into everyone’s mind is why has not the Indian Government send an expedition to discover gold deposits in Bihar. According to a survey, most of the deposits in Bihar are believed to be concentrated in three districts – Gaya, Rajgir and Jamui. The potential gold mines lie in dense forests, rugged terrain and Naxalite-prone areas. The presence of a large number of Naxals in the forests has held up searching operations for minerals in these areas. Nevertheless, the Indian Government is certain that as soon as the Naxals come into the mainstream of education and development, the Indian Government will launch a gold rush to these rural and backward areas, triggering new jobs for the locals and improvement in transportation.

In the year 2020-21, gold ore exploration projects have been started in Ajaynagar block in Gaya district in South Bihar and in the border regions of West Champaran district in North Bihar. Extensive research is necessary for first-hand identification of gold in the region. Gold is a costly material to be extracted from its ores, and it is very rare in nature. This makes gold one of the most expensive metals on Earth. India imports almost all of its consumption from foreign countries. Only the Hutti mine in Karnataka is the active gold mine in the country after the famed Kolar Gold Mines shut its gates in 2001. The country is looking for alternatives to cut down imports. The Discovery of gold reserves in the country will surely boost the Indian economy, which has dwindled to a historic minimum due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Fall of Kabul, 2021

While the US prepared their exit by 9th September 2021, the Taliban rose to become the dominant political and military power in Afghanistan. After capturing Herat in the extreme west, the Taliban proceeded rapidly towards the east, where the bigger cities like Kabul and Kandahar are located.

This is not the first time the Taliban has risen to power following an unstable Government in power in Kabul. In 1995, a civil war started in Afghanistan, following which the Taliban rose to power. After a failed attempt, the Taliban established their base at Herat on the western part of the country, and again launched an offensive to Kabul. Kabul fell in 1996 and Afghanistan passed into the hands of the Taliban. The siege was only for 5 years, but it resulted in Afghanistan’s economy rolling back at least 25 years.

Mass destruction, killing and raping of women, and blowing up of archaeological monuments are features of the Taliban regime. US troops gradually repealed the Taliban from 2001 onwards and took up Kabul. However, they could not completely wipe out Taliban leadership and ideology and it soon gained momentum in remote parts of the country. Though the Taliban were a nightmare for the women, Taliban support still built up on a large scale across the remote regions. The US alleged that Pakistan sponsored the Taliban providing them shelter in Quetta.

Several countries like India, Afghanistan Government, the US, Russia alleged that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorist organizations. The allegations were proved right when Osama-bin-Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 US bombardment attacks was found and killed in Pakistan. For a brief period, the progress of Al-Qaeda and Taliban were overshadowed by the rapid progress of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and their suicidal attacks in other parts of the world. Heavy bombardment by the US, Russia and other world superpowers ensured that ISIS didn’t last long. While the world helped Syria and Iraq wipe out ISIS, the US was making peace talks with the Taliban to ensure peace in Afghanistan. After the fall of ISIS, the Taliban still held their ground with military and finance aid from neighbouring countries that allegedly include Pakistan.

Things took a decisive turn as US President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by 11th September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US made a peace deal with the Taliban, where mutual peace and unity between Afghanistan Government controlled areas and Taliban controlled areas were signed. However, as soon as the withdrawal of US troops started, the Taliban started capturing one city after another in bitter street fighting. Within 3-4 weeks, the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the southern city of Kandahar, the western city of Herat was captured by Taliban forces.

The Afghan military provided almost zero resistance to the Taliban attacks, most of them switched sides taking the opportunity of lack of nationalism and leadership from the Government. Despite Joe Biden assuring that Afghanistan is self-sufficient in military power to combat any Taliban uprising, the reality shows a completely different picture. Covering almost the entire Afghanistan, the Taliban now attacked Kabul from all sides. The Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on the night of siege and took refuge in either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Street fighting started in Kabul but there was hardly anyone loyal to the Afghanistan Government and most has switched sides. Kabul passed into the hands of the Taliban, who now proclaimed their country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The fall of Kabul in August 2021, marked the beginning of a new era of Taliban rule over Afghanistan. Parts of the city, around the airport, where most of the foreign residents living in the country are escaping were spared from damage. As soon as all foreign countries finish their evacuation of citizens, entire Afghanistan will pass into the hands of the Taliban. Many Afghans want to leave the country to find shelter in other developed countries but are unprepared given how quickly the Taliban captured one city after another. While Taliban rule is a nightmare for women and minorities, they have no option other than hope that the new rule of Taliban will not be doing mass raping or ethnic cleansing and treat everyone with respect and give importance to education and growth of the economy of the war-torn country.

Written by – Himadri Paul

4 Days Work a Week

5 days a week work may seem boring for many employees. After long hours of duty daily, getting only 2 days a week as holiday is not enough for many workers, who are doing laborious work. Also, the working hours per week seem to have exceeded what is required in this modern, fast-paced and digital world. That is why some countries are looking forward to either reducing the working hours a week or giving Friday or Monday a holiday along with the usual weekend.

The Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and work from home conditions is said to be the inspiration for exploring the possibility of a reduction in working hours. Some countries and private companies have explored the possibility of either a 4 working day week pattern, or reduction in working hours per day, or even giving a flexible approach deciding the duty time. All possibilities were tested by several private firms during the pandemic period when most of the workers opted to work from home. Currently, Germany has the least working hours a week at less than 30 hours a week.

Though several small firms had started reduced working hours or 4-day a week trials, the first major success was found in that of Iceland. Though the trials started before the pandemic, it took one and a half years to conclude finally. In July 2021, Iceland released its report on the trials. Iceland concluded that reducing working hours would result in an overwhelming success for the employees and the working class. Though the production did not increase as anticipated, sufficient cost can be reduced in terms of electricity bill, manpower, maintenance for offices, and transportation cost for employees.

The trial was not entirely on 4-day work but also covered 5-day work with reduced working hours and flexible timings of duty. In the case of 4-day work, Friday or Monday was declared a holiday for employees on a rotational basis. In all cases, work hours were reduced from 40 hours a week to 35-36 hours a week, though it is alleged that some 5-day work requiring longer duty time got decreased by no more than 7 mins a day or 35 mins a week in private sectors and 13 mins a day or 65 mins a week in the public sector. The salary of employees were not decreased. Some researchers have stated that the report was greatly overstated, and the working limits were not strictly followed in many cases.

The most significant positive idea from the Icelandic trials is employee satisfaction. Every employee is more satisfied with the current working conditions, with same pay. While the managers and officers are satisfied that there is no decrease in output from each employee, the employees have most benefited from the new working conditions. In 4-day work, a 3-day weekend also means greater time for travelling and rejuvenating the mind. Apart from Saturday and Sunday, the extra holiday on Monday or Friday worked the best for employees. Flexible duty timings is a significant respite to employees living far away, who have to get up too early. Now employees can attend any evening party, or wake up late, which was previously not possible in rigid working-hour conditions. It also gives the workers to take break from work, indulge in exercise, and relax.

Though we should never rely on one report, the report certainly shows promising results that can be carried forward in other countries. Japan and New Zealand have also started trials of 4-day week work, reduction in working hours, or flexible shifts on a large scale basis. India has also expressed its willingness for a 4-day work week, albeit at the expense of increasing working hours a day. As the world changed from 6 days a week work to 5 days at the turn of the millennium, the time has come that many companies and public sectors look forward to switching to 4 days a week work in the near future.

To know more about the details of findings on the report, click here.

Written by – Himadri Paul