NEW DELHI: “I can’t breathe Mummy” cried eight year old Tania as she woke up her mother in the middle of the night. Also struggling with stinging eyes, and heavy breathing the family packed their bags and left for the hills almost immediately. This was three days ago, and they said they will not return until the smog engulfing the capital of India like a shroud, has cleared.

This family was fortunate, in that they had the resources and the ability to get away. This does not hold for the millions living in the National Capital Region, the elderly, the babies and young children, the women (all vulnerable groups) who are breathing poison for a complete lack of choice. And unlike cigarette smokers, for no fault of theirs.

There would have been some comfort levels, even in the midst of this environmental disaster, had there been any signs that the government ---central and Delhi---were in control of the situation, and had implemented measures to deal with the crisis. At least to some extent. But there is no sign of this happening with even a plan of action not being formulated by those elected to represent the people, currently choking in the gas chamber that Delhi has been turned into.

A red alert was apparently sounded at some point in the night. The Delhi Chief Minister and the Union Environment Minister met in what was called an emergency meeting, but had nothing of urgency about it as it came days after the residents in the capital city had reported dire distress. It is not clear what transpired at this meeting, if anything, as neither the BJP nor the Aam Aadmi Party were able to announce the long awaited plan of action.

There is no plan of action. And frankly, one is tried of political wrangling and whining. The BJP has decided not to cooperate with the Delhi government. AAP spends its time in whining. The BJP in wrangling. And between the two Delhi is getting hit hard. By dust from the construction that never ends, from smoke of grain being burnt in neighbouring states, from emission of pollutants from vehicles, and factories...and nothing is being done to deal with this. And the Diwali crackers added to the disaster with not even a word from the governments urging citizens to desist.

CM Arvind Kejriwal had introduced the odd even scheme a while ago. Delhi cooperated, it was declared a success, so much so that it was pulled off and never heard of again. There are no laws in use against offensive emissions, from vehicles and factories. None at least that are being implemented. There is no crack down on offenders, no suggestion even of this. There has not been a word about the grain and crops being set on fire, no effort to coordinate with neighbouring governments to stop this.

Delhi-ites are living with two governments, both fighting each other at every nook and cranny, with neither concerned about the current disaster that has engulfed the city. And that is choking the people.

Where is the plan of action? How are the two governments housed in Delhi going to deal with this pollution? Is there even an aswareness in the corridors of power of the dangers being carried in the air, of health and respiratory problems, of cancer, fatigue, tiredness? Doctors have gone on the record warning of thousands of deaths because of this disaster. Do these politicians even realise how bad this pollution is? That it is a catastrophe that requires war like measures to contain, or at least to try and start to contain.

The silence is deafening. After the meeting both the governments should have come out with an immediate plan of action released to the media. Even the basic do’s and don’ts for the people have not been announced.

We have started missing Sheila Dikshit. As she did understand the importance of clean air, of a livable environment. She took measures to control the pollution. She issued advertisements urging the people not to use crackers in Diwali, unlike some BJP supporters who have attacked individuals and organisations suggesting the same as being anti-Hindu. She banned buses not fulfilling pollution control requirements. She did not allow trucks to enter the city during crucial working hours.

All of this has stopped. And there is no sign of it being revived at any level.

This is criminal neglect and negligence by the governments in Delhi. Both responsible, and both absconding.

(Cover Photograph: Delhi mornings these days)