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Our life our times :: 4 :: Air purifiers
2016.11.19 18:27:13

The national capital of India, Delhi, has been choking ever since the Diwali fireworks fouled up the air. That looked like a trigger, which in fact it was not, for the continuing spell of intense air pollution. With a blanket of smog settling down over Delhi schools have been shut, construction and demolition works have been banned, polluting power plants like the one at Badarpur have been closed for ten days. “The city has turned into a gas chamber”, that is how Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, described the situation. I spoke to an 87 years old very old friend to inquire how he was doing. He reported that he and his 80 years old wife had sealed themselves in their second storey flat with doors and windows shut. One cannot move out even to buy the necessities. Even the warmth of the mellow winter sun that they used to enjoy in the approaching cold weather sitting out in an ill-kempt park, too,  has been denied to them. It is a horrid situation – an abominable turn of events during the season of festivities, flowers and fun and frolics. Children are suffering the most. For them there is no school, no fun and games and, what’s more, they cannot go out in the open and play. If they get out they have to wear a mask – a necessary encumbrance.

In such a circumstance, no wonder people would look for means to ameliorate their condition. In the process,s people are increasingly turning to technological assistance. Science has handed over to humans a very potent appliance in the shape of technology that can be used for satisfying various kinds of needs – from basic to the most sophisticated. Most being aware of them, it is not necessary to go through all the developments in the matter. What is something new in India, however, is the air purifier that is not all that well known. If one looks for it in the internet one would come across numerous brands with various specifications and several claims for the machines’ versatility.

This is the machine age and one cannot really live comfortably without their help. With economic progress even the middle classes in their tiered differentiations have acquired air-conditioners that control the hot or cold weathers within the confines of one’s living or bed rooms or even large halls. With cut-throat competition and proliferation of manufacturers to meet the rising demands the prices have fallen making them affordable for those who never could entertain a thought of acquiring one a few years ago.

It seems it is now the turn of air purifiers. Now, with frightfully toxic ambient air people are getting more and more inclined to buy air purifiers. One of the first of them was perhaps installed by the US Embassy in the capital. Progressively, as the air quality deteriorates even during the seasons when it is expected to be normal or slightly worse air purifiers provide an alternative to treat the pollution in the air. They do filter out the harmful particulate matters (PM 2.5 and PM 10), protect people from taking in foul air which has all the potential to seriously damage their health. But installing it at home will protect one only for a period of 12 hours or so. When one is out and away from it one remains exposed to the pollution.

Apart from dealing with very harmful PM 2.5 and PM 10 these contraptions also help in keeping out the allergens helping to make those comfortable who suffer from allergy or those who are asthmatic. Besides, they extend protection from dust, pollen, pet dander, mites and their faeces, etc. Regardless of their benefits, Indian households never perhaps ever contemplated to buy such a machine that rendered only limited assistance. But with heavily toxic air that has settled down over Delhi people are turning to these machines that are, unfortunately, of limited use. Besides, the other disadvantage is that these machines run on dirty energy, rising consumption of which exacerbates the pollution caused by coal-fired thermal power plants. It is a great irony; it is we who create polluted air  by our own indiscrete activities and then we have to have machines to filter it.

The whole sordid thing started with Diwali. With the pollution base already high the fireworks made it worse.  Delhi air is not free of pollutants even at the best of times. Diwali made it worse, as it does virtually every year. And, yet people do not draw a lesson. But the fillip to the deteriorating quality of air was given by the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. For want of cheap labour that they used to get from Bihar they switched over to harvesters for reaping their paddy crop that, unfortunately, do not harvest as the humans do; they leave a fairly tall stubble. That stubble reportedly is of no use and hence it is set fire to. The burning of the remnants of the paddy crop in the three states has raised the smoke that engulfs the entire region, the urban concentrations including the megapolis of Delhi. That and the usual sources like smoke from thermal power plants and incoming dust from the desert region in the west compound the problem.

People are having a terrible time. United Nations has come out with a warning that the record pollution levels of 999 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre is more than 15 to 16 times more than what is considered safe. PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate matters, both clocked 16 times more than what is safe. The air has become toxic and with every breath adults and children are inhaling poison which can eventually cause the dreaded disease of cancer.

Air purifiers or wearing masks when out in the open are short term preventive measures – like palliatives. A more fundamental approach to cut down on the source of pollution is urgently needed. Already number of deaths due to air pollution in the country is climbing rapidly and has risen to more than a million and has overtaken China.

It cannot be that the paddy stubble is absolutely useless. After all, it is an organic matter and has to have carbon as one of its components. No wonder, Nitin Gadkari, a central minister has suggested production of bio-fuel from it. This will eliminate the smoke and also be profitable to the farmers. Such plants need to be commissioned as soon as possible all over Punjab, Haryana and Western UP. Fireworks in Delhi need to be banned regardless of the fact that it is a demand of spring festivities or weddings or whatever. Public transport needs to be strengthened to reduce the dependence on personal vehicles. Delhi reportedly has 6,000,000 vehicles of all kinds – commercial, private, four wheelers, three wheelers and two wheelers of varied ages emitting into the Delhi atmosphere gases that are poisonous.  Promotion of electric battery operated vehicles seems to be the need of the hour. And, Delhi should go for an all out campaign for solar energy. All government establishments, their extensive terraces, the stadiums and their open spaces, the parking lots etc. can be used for installation of solar panels.

All this needs to be done on war-footing; there is not a day to lose as numerous lives are being damaged and lost to this Frankensteinian monster.

 



Tags: air | pollution | purifiers

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Cricketing beards have it their way
2016.11.01 15:01:01

Beards have ultimately won not one but two series against New Zealand this year. While the bearded team won all the five test matches, the one-day series was won by three matches to two. The last One Day International (ODI) at Visakahpatnam must have been very disappointing for the New Zealanders. They lost it by as many as 190 runs, a stunning defeat – all because of too many bearded men in the field?



Tags: beards | cricket

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India's disappearing freedom of expression
2016.10.22 16:03:53

Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and a historian who has authored numerous books on Indian History and random societal matters, recently enumerated eight reasons why Indians cannot speak freely. He says India is a 50-50 democracy. It is democratic only in a few respects and it is not so in many other respects. He says the country is free in respect of conduct of free and fair elections and movement within the country. It is, however, only partly democratic in other ways. “The democratic deficit” that largely occurs is in the area of freedom of expression.



Tags: freedom | expression

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Rahul, Sonia Gandhi - like mother like son
2016.10.14 19:47:49

Plummeting standards of political discourse in the country can surprisingly be largely attributed to its “Grand Old Party”, the Indian National Congress. Some years ago, its current president, Sonia Gandhi, called Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat, “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death), hinting at his alleged role in the Gujarat communal riots of 2002.



Tags: rahul | sonia | like | mother | son

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THE 'SURGICAL STRIKE'
2016.10.05 19:17:53

As I came back home that afternoon, my wife excitedly told me as she opened the door that there had been a “surgical strike” across the LoC (Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir). The TV was on and I asked her whether there had been any retaliatory nuclear bombings or missile (tactical or otherwise) attacks. She didn’t know. She had just heard of the “strike” when I rang the bell. I was expecting the worst.



Tags: surgical | strike | kashmir

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Nehru thwarted two winnable wars
2016.09.16 18:46:13

Aroop Raha, the Indian Air Force chief recently articulated his disappointment that the country’s air power was not fully utilized during the first war with Pakistan in 1948. Likewise, he said, the airpower was not used during the 1962 war with China.

Tags: india | disasters

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India's slipping values
2016.09.02 19:00:56

A photograph was recently published of a villager carrying his dead wife’s body on his shoulder while his daughter walked alongside crying all the way. The unfortunate incident happened somewhere in the interiors of the backward district of Kalahandi of the state of Odisha.



Tags: slipping | indian | values

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Chief Minister Kashmir gets the right perspective
2016.08.31 16:11:32

Earlier last week Chief Minister Mahmooda Mufti’s speech was being telecast live by India TV.  I wanted to check where did she speak in the vein that she did which appeared to be highly rational. I scanned all the newspapers that I get – Hindi as well as English – but I could not find it covered in any of them. The Times of India, of course, did not report it and even The Hindu – a newspaper that reports in detail everything of national interest uttered by a person of the stature of a chief minister – seemed to have glossed over it.

Tags: kashmir | unrest

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Our Life, Our Times: Changing Lives Through Technology
2016.07.31 16:06:42

“Desh aage barh raha hai” (the country is marching ahead), this is what Prime Minister Modi has been saying at various fora. Many would not agree with what he says. They would be right as in many areas of governmental activities not much change is perceptible. In fact, they have got worse.

Tags: technology | lives | changing

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Roma - 'Children of India'
2016.06.29 18:07:24

While reading a review of a film I was surprised to learn that it was made by a Roma about a large Roma family. The film is about a sunny day when the family with about 15 kids in tow goes out on a sunny day with tp celebrate their fresh start in Berlin. The name of the film is “And-Ek Ghes” in Romani (“One fine day” in English) which the reviewer found “visually chaotic” but telling an intimate tale of their “tumultuous uprooting” and yet of “strong hope, often contrived and staged”.



Tags: roma | children

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Corruption hindering growth and prosperity
2016.06.12 15:22:59

Rummaging through my collection of newspaper clippings I came across one that was of a fairly recent origin. Its sub-head said corruption remains major barrier to growth in India. This earth-shattering finding was made by as unlikely an organization as the World Economic Forum (WEF), a Swiss non-profit based near Geneva. Its mission is supposed to be "... improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".



Tags: corruption | indian

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Sonia Gandhi's Congress is allergic to truth
2016.02.01 15:28:33

The Indian National Congress High Command has sent a show-cause notice to the Mumbai Congress chief, Sanjay Nirupam, for publishing an unsigned article in the November 2015 issue of “Congress Darshan”, a mouthpiece of the Party in Mumbai, denigrating the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Party’s current president, Sonia Gandhi.

Tags: Sonia Gandhi

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Pakistani Terror Repeats History
2016.01.09 14:43:30

The attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station was expected. I am sure the Indian Government and its security agencies must have anticipated it. It had to happen as it had always happened after every initiative for talks between India and Pakistan. One wonders whether the perpetrators of these are really so dumb as to believe that their nefarious designs would not be anticipated despite the historical background.



Tags: terror | Pakistan

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Hindu far right is Modi's enemy
2015.11.26 19:13:19

Prime Minister Modi is reported to have said the other day while addressing G20 leaders at Antalya (Turkey), “We need to involve religious leaders, thinkers and opinion makers for a social movement against extremism, particularly addressed to the youth”. This was needed the most in countries where extremism was most prevalent, he said, and highlighted the urgency for promoting broader peace and stability in West Asia and Africa. He also said, “We don’t have a comprehensive global strategy to combat terrorism. And we tend to be selective in using the instruments that we have.”

Tags: enemy | right | hindu

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Wars - manifestation of Social Darwinism
2015.09.06 18:54:06

The last one hundred years were full of international strifes and wars during which two world wars were fought involving most of the countries of the world. Apart from them there were smaller regional wars or ethnic movements for independence. Barring Australia – a single country continent – no continent was spared the luxury of peace and tranquility.

Tags: darwinism | social | wars

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Hindu pilgrimages are now destructive of environment
2015.08.08 18:37:18

This year quite a few Hindu pilgrimages are scheduled. In fact, some have been gone through, some others are continuing and still others are yet to commence.  An ancient religion as it is, it has a number of auspicious days as prescribed by the scriptures and the same have designated a number of holy places.



Tags: enviroment | pilgrimages | hind

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India - 1.27 billion and counting
2015.07.31 16:02:22

W

e have hit the 1.27 billion mark. This only means that we are only less than three quarters short of 2 billion. In 2011 we were 1210 million and in less than four years we have added more than 60 million. It is now estimated that at this rate we will overtake the Chinese population by the middle of the next decade or thereabout.

Tags: india

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India's scam of the year
2015.07.17 15:26:07

This is one scam that the Hindu right wing party ruling in Delhi and in Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, will have to live through for a long time. It is so big that most parts of the country are involved in it and its reverberations have travelled far and wide.



Tags: india

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Nestle's Maggi Noodle has a run in with Indian officialdom
2015.06.21 19:02:42

Nestle India got it out of the blue right in the neck. The “blue” in this surprising event was the innocuous state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). A stray safety test of Nestlé’s 2-Minute Noodles yielded lead content far too excess in proportion than what was permissible. And all hell broke loose – for Nestle India.



Tags: noodles | maggi | nestle

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Common Man's Party chief turns authoritarian
2015.04.23 19:48:49

There is something unstable in Kejriwal’s persona that makes him behave in the way he mostly does. He has that penchant for ‘self-destruct’ and, in the process, he betrays the faith reposed in him by hundreds and thousands of common, educated and well-meaning people as also civil society organizations. One wonders whether he has that inscrutable split personality like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as it seems there has been a sea change in his personality and conduct since the days of the movement appropriately known as India Against Corruption (IAC).

Tags: india

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