With livelihoods on the line, workers in Delhi cannot escape the toxic air | Tech Reddy


On Friday morning, the air quality index in Delhi rose to 472, raising it to the “severe” level where even healthy people can face breathing problems. AQI stands at 562 in neighboring Noida and 539 in Gurgaon.

This coincided with dangerous air quality drops every winter in the national capital, one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Delhi announced work-from-home plans for government employees and closed primary schools as doctors advised residents to stay indoors. However, this has provided little relief to millions of working-class Delhi residents who have no choice but to continue their work outside.

Often something as basic as food for the day depends on daily earnings.

Scroll.in They spoke to five working-class Delhiites about how they are coping with this public health emergency.

Gangaprasad Mali, auto driver

Gangaprasad Mali, 60, says he hit a bad patch in 2017 after he was fired from a driving job in Delhi’s Chittaranjan Park neighborhood. “Then I bought an auto and started driving it,” he said. “This is backbreaking work.”

He complained bitterly about the pollution. “The air is so dirty it makes your eyes water,” he said. “CR Park is still a bit better, as there is greenery, green cover. It is worse in other parts of Delhi.”

Ganesh Kanojia, another auto driver parked at the same stand at CR Park, pointed out that children are the worst affected. “I pick up kids at school and I see they’re sick,” he said. “Sans phul jati hai, they find it difficult to breathe and some of them start vomiting.”

The pollution convinced Malik to leave Delhi and try to return to his village in Madhubani, Bihar. “Poison is everywhere in the city,” he said. “Even if I don’t earn there, it’s okay. I will live well, I have some farmland.”

Shikha Mandal, construction workers

Shikha Mandal, a construction worker from Bihar’s Katihar, laughs when asked about pollution. “We’re already breathing in so much dust when we work,” he noted. “What is this pollution of ours?”

If anything, Mandal is a little angry at the discussion around pollution. “We had to stop work for a few days because of the ‘lockdown’,” he said, referring to the temporary construction ban in Delhi due to pollution, using terminology borrowed from the Covid-19 pandemic. “We are people who work to eat. We don’t want to stop working.”

Amit Oberoi, food delivery rider

Amit Kumar Oberoi, 39, a food app delivery rider mostly works in Dwarka. “Yes, there is pollution,” he said. “One day after Diwali my eyes were burning, then I used eye drops and now I feel better.”

Oberio, however, said his company could not afford to sit at home as it does not take measures for pollution. “I work 12-14 hours a day. I cannot stay at home because I have to feed my family,” he said Scroll.in. “I don’t know if there is any concern about pollution in our company. Nobody asks us. If we are asked to stay at home and pay during pollution, we will welcome it.”

Shah Alam, sanitation worker

Shah Alam, a sanitation worker in Bhogal, said the pollution is so bad, his eyes are burning. His only solution is to wear a mask but even that is not possible for the kind of heavy work he does.

“The smog bothers me and I try to wear a mask,” he said. “But I have to climb stairs at work, lift heavy loads, I can’t breathe” with a mask.

Dinesh Kumar, Green Trader

Dinesh Kumar sells vegetables on a cycle cart. He pointed out that pollution in Delhi has reached extreme levels.

“Everywhere I look, there is smoke,” he said. “My eyes are burning, they are water.” I can’t breathe, I feel tired. It will never happen before.”


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