Smog on the cricket field

Venky Vembu | Updated on January 09, 2018

It’s neither edifying nor sporting, it’s gross negligence

It didn’t need the unflattering image of Sri Lankan cricketers playing with masks at Delhi’s Feroze Shah Kotla ground to remind policymakers that smog is literally choking residents of the national capital to slow death. But it appears that India’s cricket administrators and the political establishment are in wholesale denial, and are rather more willing to dismiss the Sri Lankans’ prophylactic precaution as the gamesmanship of a floundering team. In fact, the hazy overhang on the stadium, visible even on television screens, is a sobering reminder of the toxicity in the air, literally as well as metaphorically, in the discourse on the issue.

The policy kabaddi being played out in Delhi in response to the smog would be a comic farce were it not a monstrous tragedy. Virtually none of the key players — not the Arvind Kejriwal government, not the National Green Tribunal, not the Centre, and certainly not the Supreme Court — emerges from out of the haze with its reputation, such as it is, intact. And the seemingly ad-hoc measures being implemented fitfully, first by one agency and then by another, amount in sum to tilting at the windmills rather than reflecting any earnestness about tackling the root causes of the problem.

The absence of manifest seriousness in the political establishments at both the State and the Central level has created a policy vacuum, which the Supreme Court and the NGT have filled with unedifying alacrity, even overreaching into policy domains that rest with the executive. And the quick-fix solutions they have advanced have not exactly served to reinforce confidence in the wisdom of their ways.

The matter relates to much more than just cricketing fortunes. Pollution — in Delhi and elsewhere in India — is taking a huge toll in terms of human lives and economic costs. It’s time for policy administrators to stop playing games and address the issue with the seriousness it merits.

Associate Editor

Published on December 05, 2017

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