Just days before voting in the municipal corporation elections takes place, the air quality index in Anand Vihar, recognised recently by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) as the most polluted area in Delhi, lingered in the hazardous category.
There has been no relief for the residents and passers-by in these winter months, the most polluted period of the year in the Capital.
“The subject of increased air pollution is being discussed in almost all households [in the area],” said Adnan Ahmed, a 42-year-old resident of Yojna Vihar which comes under ward No. 206 Anand Vihar.
“I don’t know if anything is going to happen or the pollution would be controlled, but yes it is a major issue, and the residents would vote accordingly,” he told Patriot.
Rajeev Chaudhary, who is the president of the Residents Welfare Association (RWA) of Priya Enclave, which is also part of ward No. 206 Anand Vihar, said many residents have got air purifiers installed in their homes.
“Those residents who can afford them, have installed purifiers in their homes. But if you go to the cluster area, you can say people are living in subhuman conditions,” Chaudhary told Patriot.
Pollution though is just compounding the matters as the locality stares at some other grave issues.
“We are on the Delhi-UP border where there is heavy pollution due to traffic. There is a huge garbage dump, the sewers are open, the parks aren’t being maintained and the residents have been spending out of their own pockets to maintain them since the horticulture department hasn’t been responsive. Also, the public toilets are shut,” he added.
Rameshwar Singh, a businessman, who has been living in Anand Vihar for the past 20 years, is a frustrated man.
“We have trusted them (officials in the municipal corporation) for 15 years, but till date there has been no improvement. In fact, the situation continues to worsen in Delhi,” said Singh.
Singh also buttressed the point made by Chaudhary regarding other civic problems in the ward.
“I have a business in Preet Vihar, and thus I travel on a daily basis. Traffic, dug-up roads, excessive garbage dumps in every nook and corner of the area are a common sight. The roads are really unsafe in the night hours, cases of theft and robbery are very common and I believe that this December, the ward will vote for a safe, secure and clean Anand Vihar,” he explained further.
Singh added that the focus on pollution is sidelining other civic matters which will eventually decide the outcome of the MCD elections more than pollution.
“I know that this ward is known as one of the most polluted areas in Delhi. But air pollution being a hot topic sidelines the other major problems which are also of concern in the area,” added Singh.
Om Prakash Sharma, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of legislative assembly from Vishwas Nagar under which the Anand Vihar ward comes, told Patriot, “The situation [regarding pollution] is getting out of control. This is the border area, there is heavy traffic, an inter-state bus terminal is located here and small factories also exist. All these things add to pollution.”
He laid the onus of reducing pollution on the state government led by Aam Aadmi Party, saying that they should install air purifiers in the area.
“This is the responsibility of the Delhi government. We have raised the issue in the Vidhan Sabha. We have asked them to install air purifiers in some numbers, the kind that they are putting up in Connaught Place. Things need to be a bit organised.”
However, the responsibility for cleanliness and sanitation lies with the municipal corporation which is governed by the BJP.
“Maintaining healthy air quality levels is the responsibility of the state government but yes, cleanliness is the responsibility of the municipal corporation. But the reason has been the lack of funds. Funds were not released which is why there were strikes by the MCD employees and civic problems arose. Money was not given on time, therefore cleanliness and other civic issues were affected,”
Sharma explained before saying that the three corporations should be merged into one body to ensure that the funds don’t become a problem.
About an hour’s ride from Anand Vihar lies Jahangirpuri which was in news earlier this year for the demolition of buildings following communal clashes.
The residents of the area are also forced to endure poor air quality among other civic problems.
“Residents of the area are now used to it,” said Satyendra Kumar, 49, who owns a juice corner in Jahangirpuri.
“The garbage pile (the landfill) and air pollution are the topics that everyone wants to discuss in these elections, and I believe these topics should be discussed but there are other basic issues in our day-to-day lives,” said Kumar.
“Sometimes, it becomes impossible to breathe, but we have nowhere to go or escape. The present ward councillor or the government hasn’t done anything in this regard. All they have are huge promises, but the reality is that we are subjected to suffering,” he added.
Kumar explained that there are open nallas (drains) and garbage dumps in the area, but no one cares about them.
“There are animals roaming around in the area, there are huge dumps and piles of garbage which is burned every now and then,” he started to point out the problems.
“Aren’t all of these things increasing air pollution? I know that the huge landfill won’t go away in a moment. Neither the air quality is going to improve any sooner, but these issues, which are much smaller in nature, can be resolved in a few months,” Satyendra concluded.
Rajni Devi, 40, who teaches at a local school in Jahangirpuri feels pollution is a real threat in the area.
“The number of respiratory and breathing issues we face on a daily basis is unimaginable. The devastating effects pollution has on a child’s health should be a prime concern for those who are contesting the MCD elections,” she said.
“I don’t even remember the last time I allowed Raghav (her son) to go out and play in the evening. He already suffers from respiratory issues and this is very common for the children who are born and brought up in and around Jahangirpuri,” Rajni continued.
She informed Patriot that excessive garbage and open nallas (drains) besides pollution in the area have also led to certain skin-related issues. Cases of dengue were being reported as well. In her opinion, cleanliness in the area should be the priority.
Radheshyam Yadav, 43, a resident of Jahangirpuri who is associated with the Aam Aadmi Party, told Patriot, that their prime focus is to make the area clean and less polluted.
“The Kejriwal government is trying its best to tackle these problems and if the same party is in MCD as well, improvement is possible,” he stated.
Interrupting Radheshyam, Pawan Singh, an active campaigner for the BJP told Patriot that all AAP has in its box are fake promises.
“They say all these things to come in power, while the ward councillor of Aadarsh Nagar, which is right next to Jahangirpuri is from AAP. People are so angry with him and his party that they are throwing away their flags and pamphlets on the road,” stated Singh and went into an argument with Radheshyam.
“That’s all they do,” remarked Diwakar over the argument and continued selling masks, gloves and mufflers at his make-shift stall.
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