Pulling up out-of-context facts to arrive at completely random conclusions seems to be a trend among our netas. Backing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Amit Shah said the Congress had divided the country on religious lines (TL;DR: they didn’t). And our Environment Minister claimed that pollution does not affect lifespans.
This week, as our Parliamentarians were busy replicating a NewsHour debate over a law that effectively turns “India” into “Hindustan”, and the half-decent citizens of this country were left reeling from yet another gruesome update in another horrific rape case, one minister saw his rare chance to say whatever he liked without being noticed.
Keeping in with the trend of pulling up out-of-context facts to arrive at completely random conclusions, the country’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar claimed last week that there was no Indian study that conclusively linked pollution to shortening lifespans. “Let us not create fear and psychosis in the minds of people,” he added at the end, before presumably standing directly in front of a truck’s exhaust pipe for five full minutes.
While the initial climate-denying sentiment went largely unnoticed back home — sadly there’s about 12 more pressing issues to be discussed before we get to impending climate doom — the United Nations World Health Organisation apparently wasn’t having any of Javadekar’s Indic revival.
A couple of days ago, it didn’t mince any words in its response to the minister, clarifying that “thousands of (their) studies show the effect of air pollution on health”, and ending with characteristic cheekiness generally associated with an international governing body: “We are yet to find a study which shows any population, including India, which is immune from the health impacts of air pollution.”
Apart from making you wonder what conclusion Prakash Javadekar ended up drawing from PM Modi’s Man vs Wild episode, the statement — and the WHO’s exasperated response — really makes you wonder. Did the environment minister end up missing the hundreds of reports that included top Indian cities in the list of most polluted places in the world? Did he sleep through all the events unfolding in Delhi over the last few months? Just yesterday, a report said our country saw the most climate-related deaths in 2018, and the second-highest economic losses related to climate catastrophes, estimated at over $37,000 million. Doesn’t it seem odd that the Times of India reads these reports, but our environment minister doesn’t?
In all probability, Prakash Javadekar had other things on his mind. He was, in fact, among the several Members of Parliament enthusiastically supporting the Citizenship Amendment Bill, with drawn out Kapil Sharma-esque applause, and personal attacks at the Congress party. As expected as its tabling was, the Bill aims to strike a serious blow to the idea of “secular” India, and has been widely criticised. But after Home Minister Amit Shah confidently reminded everyone that the Congress had divided the country on religious lines (TL;DR: they didn’t), and successfully drowned out the Opposition’s protest, we saw 308 parliamentarians definitively pass the Bill, later categorised as a “stomping majority”.
Meanwhile, no matter where you look, there’s some bad news. All through this month, reports about the falling economy have been stonewalled by our Finance Minister — who, at this point, seemingly finds it hard to say “Good morning” without being mercilessly trolled online. Her moment in the spotlight started with a spirited attack on millennials ruining the auto industry, and ended with an offhand statement about her dislike of onions — but, spoiler alert, no country’s economies were fixed in the process.
The falling GDP could be forgiven too, if it wasn’t for the fact that our country is a hellish dystopia for one half of the population. Rather than take serious cognisance of the thousands of gruesome rape cases emerging every single day, our Members of Parliament are often on the other side of the debate, either calling for the instant lynching of rape accused, or pardoning rapists completely, depending on their mood for the day. It’s no surprise then that there has been a sharp rise in Lok Sabha MPs with some sort of sexual assault allegations levelled against them.
So maybe that’s why not a single head turned when the man supposed to be in charge of protecting the environment said pollution was safe for human consumption. In just the last few months, we’ve seen a Commerce Minister saying we shouldn’t “get into the math of it”, several ministers calling for re-writing history like they’re editing Wikipedia, and a Prime Minister who believes radar can’t see through clouds. Looks like India has finally made it to the league of big nations! Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
This article was originally published on Arré
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