Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

An ecological disaster

Myths are not history. But sometimes through bizarre paths myths become prophecies for history. A fond myth is that Delhi was the site of Indraprastha, the capital that the Pandavas built when they were forced to move out of Hastinapura. The area that is referred to as Purana Qilla is often associated with Indraprastha. But unfortunately for those who work overtime to make myths into history, there is no archaeological or historical evidence to support the association of Indraprastha to Purana Qilla. But for those living in Delhi today or even passing through it for a few days, the conditions in the capital could remind them of another episode in the lives of the Pandavas as narrated in the great epic, the Mahabharat. It occurred in the adi parva, the first book of the epic, when the five brothers and their mother, Kunti, are lured by the Kauravas to spend some time in the forest in a house specially built for them. Before they leave, Vidura speaking in Prakrit to Yudhishthira warns him that the house is made of highly inflammable material and the plot is to set the structure on fire so that the Pandavas and Kunti were suffocated to death. The structure was called Jatugriha. The Pandavas escaped thanks to Vidura. But do the residents of the modern Jatugriha have any chance of escape or are they all fated to die the living and slow death by suffocation? The modern Jatugriha is India's capital, New Delhi.

  • Published 6.12.15
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Myths are not history. But sometimes through bizarre paths myths become prophecies for history. A fond myth is that Delhi was the site of Indraprastha, the capital that the Pandavas built when they were forced to move out of Hastinapura. The area that is referred to as Purana Qilla is often associated with Indraprastha. But unfortunately for those who work overtime to make myths into history, there is no archaeological or historical evidence to support the association of Indraprastha to Purana Qilla. But for those living in Delhi today or even passing through it for a few days, the conditions in the capital could remind them of another episode in the lives of the Pandavas as narrated in the great epic, the Mahabharat. It occurred in the adi parva, the first book of the epic, when the five brothers and their mother, Kunti, are lured by the Kauravas to spend some time in the forest in a house specially built for them. Before they leave, Vidura speaking in Prakrit to Yudhishthira warns him that the house is made of highly inflammable material and the plot is to set the structure on fire so that the Pandavas and Kunti were suffocated to death. The structure was called Jatugriha. The Pandavas escaped thanks to Vidura. But do the residents of the modern Jatugriha have any chance of escape or are they all fated to die the living and slow death by suffocation? The modern Jatugriha is India's capital, New Delhi.

By any reckoning the air and the atmosphere in New Delhi is worse even than Beijing. This is one race that China is happy to lose to India. New Delhi has become a gas chamber. The air is foul and polluted. People living there are developing or are prone to develop lung related ailments. Children growing up there will enter adulthood with permanently damaged lungs and suffer right through their lives. Yet there is very little public awareness or public agitation about these conditions. Successive governments are responsible for these appalling conditions. The people of Delhi have a right to fresh and clean air because they have a right to life. But politicians and public administrators give a tinker's damn about this.

It is not as if the problem is without solution. Delhi needs to be decongested and downsized. Habitation has to be reduced as well as activity; there should be a move to deurbanize Delhi. One method of doing this is by shifting the headquarters of important corporations, for example, by dispersing public sector units. Another route could be to impose higher taxes on people wanting to live in Delhi, higher landing charges for aircraft coming to New Delhi. People should not be offered inducements to come to Delhi, quite the contrary. These are tough decisions that need to be taken if people are to live and if Delhi is to survive. A Jatugriha is horrible to read about, it is far worse to live in.