‘My Govt Has Failed Me:’ Youth Activist Takes on the CMs & the PM

A class 11 student writes an open letter to the Delhi CM to demand his right to breathe. 

Fit Connect
4 min read
Children from Delhi took to the streets to protest against climate change and air pollution at the India Gate on 5th November.  

Delhi has trapped us like a big gas chamber and has become unliveable for its citizens.

Children might be India’s future, but seems like no one is truly concerned about their future. Cold and cough has’t left me since Diwali. My day starts with doctors appointments and ends with nebulisers and medicines. Year after year the children of Delhi suffer under the toxicity of our air, with our throats gasping for air as smog envelopes the city. And unfortunately, each year our governments, both central and state, fail us.

A Lifetime of Illness

I have developed allergies and  rhinitis . A running nose, severe cold and infectious cough has become a part of my daily life and I have lived with it since the last 3 years. While one would expect a cold to become better with time as we take medicines, mine just keeps getting worse.

It has become impossible for us to go out and play, to take our dogs out for a walk, to meet up with our friends and to even go to school. My own brother is an aspiring sportsperson. But now, his matches are cancelled, he cannot go out in the mornings for practice and frankly, playing any sport in Delhi is too hazardous to his health. A close friend of mine plays soccer at a national level and was born with asthma. Recently, she was told by her doctors to leave the country if she wants to have a good career and life ahead. Her parents have been thinking of shifting her to a hostel in Singapore so she can keep her lungs safe.

I am a birdwatcher, and often used to escape to beautiful stretches of forest and wetland in and around Delhi to photograph our birds and biodiversity. I have had to curb my passion and stop going out completely because my government has failed to provide me with an environment where I can consider myself safe.

‘My Govt Has Failed Me:’ Youth Activist Takes on the CMs & the PM
(Photo: Aman Sharma)
Unfortunately not all kids can shift or relocate to other cities - in fact most can’t even afford an anti-pollution mask, even during this smog.

Children are having to kill their dreams, career aspirations and passion so they can live better - what kind of city is this? Where the most innocent are the ones being affected the most?

Policy Not Platitudes

Each year Delhi faces the same crisis, and each time kids are asked the same question - how are you feeling because of this pollution? Please tell me, how would you feel in 999 pollution levels?

‘My Govt Has Failed Me:’ Youth Activist Takes on the CMs & the PM
(Photo: Aman Sharma)

A state public health emergency due to pollution has been declared in Delhi.

This emergency is years overdue! The government knew that the pollution this year would rise to the same horrible levels - then why wasn’t it prepared for this situation? Why implement odd-even after Diwali, once the pollution levels are already deadly? Most of the construction which occurs in Delhi follows no norms, and after completion all the dust, ash and remaining materials are dumped on the road. Excessive dumping of waste in water bodies and green spaces still occurs, even within the protected areas in and around Delhi. Trees are cut before proper grants are even issues, without any regard for ecology or ecosystem. In fact, trees are still being cut on Dwarka expressway as we speak. The Yamuna has now turned from a goddess to a gutter - it runs chemicals and poisons instead of water. Our public transport remains inefficient, unsafe and outdated. From odd even to the laser show, nothing has worked! Where are the electric buses and more footpaths we were promised? Why is the government still hiding behind fake conservation and half cooked policies.

I am appalled that ever a need should arrive where children are having to write or speak openly on several platforms for something as basic as breathable air. Where they are expected to have to protest or strike or lead a ‘civil’ movement to get their voice heard.

Breathing is killing us, our dreams and our future. You are forcing your children to breathe poison, and be killed by the very air needed for their survival. We kids would be happy to let you leave money and development aside, but just give us clean air first, a prerequisite for most other nations! Are children expected to bear the burden of air pollution, the burden of fighting it, as well as the burden of living with it? The question remains - does the government care enough about its children to act now?

(Delhi is in a public health emergency and schools have been shut. The air outside is visibly toxic - how has the hazardous air #pollution impacted you? Write down your #PollutionKaSolution and send it to us at FIT@thequint.com. )

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