New Delhi: Air purifiers for the affluent, masks for the not so rich and inhaling polluted air all day — without literally a breather — for those who can’t afford a roof over their heads.
It’s maximum exposure for millions of people who are bearing the brunt of hazardous air quality, say experts.
As the air quality index (AQI) hovers between “very poor” and “severe”, slipping into “poor” on better days, the toxic air and hazy skies over the Delhi-NCR region and other parts of India are driving one more wedge between the haves and the have-nots, leaving those forced to live and work in the outdoors vulnerable to pulmonary and other diseases. “The class bias is evident when the pollution level peaks,” said Sunita Narain, who heads the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and is a member of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control). Rickshaw pullers and construction workers are the worst hit. And 19-year-old Shyam, who recently moved from Darbhanga in Bihar to Delhi to become a rickshaw puller, is proof that pollution hits us all, but some more than others.
“I am saving money for a computer course but my health has been poor for the last one month,” said the youngster, adding that he had spent all his savings in getting treatment for a recent respiratory infection. “We can’t afford the hi-fi masks that we often see our passengers wear,” Shyam said with a wry laugh.