I live in Delhi, in India. As a citizen of this city, I have exercised my democratic duty to vote in several elections. I recently voted in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation elections. Two years earlier, I voted to elect the Delhi state government. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 67 of 70 seats in the state legislature; its founder Arvind Kejriwal promised a ‘new’ Delhi to its citizens. Three years ago, I voted in the parliamentary elections and Prime Minister Modi promised ‘achhe din’ (good days) for all Indians.
I feel cheated today as a voter; I feel angry today as a citizen.
For the past two weeks, we, the citizens of Delhi and surrounding areas, have been suffering the worst levels of smog and air pollution that have caused a near medical emergency. The whole world knows about it, and my Delhi has been declared the ‘most polluted city in the world’. I am pained as a citizen of Delhi when my city gets this terrible label. In Bonn, governments from around the world, including my own, are this week discussing mechanisms to implement accords on climate change.
In my colony, fallen leaves and twigs from trees gather on the streets, lying around unattended for at least couple of weeks. A sanitation worker finally came yesterday around 9 a.m., sweeping up the leaves and raising dust with a big broom. I hurriedly escaped into my car to avoid breathing in more dust.
Every day, I notice that debris from the construction of the metro line in 2010 still lies on the sides of the main Mathura Road — for several kilometres. Further ahead, old tempos and three-wheelers designated as public transport are vomiting dark fumes in front of my car. I then find a large number of trucks illegally parked on the side of the road, along the border with the neighbouring state of Haryana near Badarpur.
The current population of Delhi is about 19 million. There is a larger area of ‘greater’ Delhi, comprising parts of two other states — Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. This area is called National Capital Region (NCR). The population of greater Delhi area, including NCR, is more than 25 million already; it is estimated to become ‘greater’ (35 million) in the next ten years.
My friends and relatives living in Gurugram and Faridabad are also decent citizens; they cast their votes in the Haryana assembly elections a couple of years ago; they have also voted in municipal corporation elections in Gurugram and Faridabad. Likewise, my friends and relatives living in Ghaziabad and NOIDA voted in recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. They are about to cast their votes in forthcoming municipal elections in Ghaziabad and other cities of Uttar Pradesh.
I travel across greater Delhi regularly, to Gurugram, NOIDA and Faridabad, for work and to meet my friends and relatives. When I pass through the centre of Delhi, I find it very clean, with no illegal parking, no vendors and rickshaws, no tempos and trucks. Then I realise it is another territory — called New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). It is where all the ministers and other dignitaries (you know, the VVVVVIPs) live. NDMC does not hold elections. Yet, it becomes ‘smart’. The smog and air pollution also covers this NDMC area, but there is no dust or debris here.
Earlier this month, Delhi was designated as the most unsafe city in the world. It is unsafe for women and girls; it is also unsafe for children and elderly. It is unsafe for city residents, and for those millions who come to visit Delhi.
As a decent, law-abiding citizen of Delhi, who pays his taxes regularly and goes to cast his vote every time a new government is to be elected at any level, it pains me to live with pollution, traffic jams and insecurity for myself, my family and friends.
What is the point of electing various governments then?
Though I believe in democratic governance, my lived experience in everyday life goes angrily against my belief. What should I do?