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The Daily Fix: Severe air pollution is a grave violation of the fundamental right to life

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The Big Story: Poison in the air

When law and order deteriorates in a state, a Constitutional process with specific remedial measures immediately kicks in. This includes the powers of the Centre to warn the concerned state government to get its act together. If even the warning fails, the Constitution provides measures to remove the state government through a parliamentary process. The basis for providing such an extreme measure in the Constitution is the recognition that maintenance of law and order is essential to protect the most fundamental of all rights – the right to life.

But maintenance of law and order alone does not guarantee the right to life. One crucial aspect of this right is the health of the population, which depends heavily on the environment. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court in 1991 made it clear that Article 21 of the Constitution, which gives citizens the fundamental right to a dignified life, is inclusive of a right to access a “wholesome environment” that includes clean air and water. If citizens are denied clean air or water, they can enforce this right under Article 32 of the Constitution by approaching the Supreme Court directly.

Seen in this context, what is transpiring in Delhi and surrounding regions of North India is a Constitutional violation of a grave nature that is depriving its residents of healthy living. On Tuesday, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi after pollution levels dipped to the “severe category”. A blanket of smog engulfed the city, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal calling the national capital a “gas chamber” and asking his education minister to declare a holiday in schools. Train and flight services were affected after visibility deteriorated. According to the non-governmental organisation Greenpeace, levels of Particulate Matter 2.5, considered the most deadly of pollutants with its ability to enter the blood stream, reached 710 micrograms per cubic metre in some parts, which is almost 11 times over the safe limits prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

The Delhi High Court stepped in on Tuesday and asked state governments in the northern region about the measures they had initiated to curb crop burning, considered a significant contributor to the worsening air quality.

But such probing questions from the courts are nothing new. Last year during the same period, pollution levels shot up alarmingly. The governments later assured the courts that they would take all possible measures to curb crop burning and other contributors to pollution. However, it is clear from the air outside that very little has been done in the last one year apart from empty assurances before the judiciary. In the meantime, the Centre has continued to water down environment norms in a number of areas, including in thermal power plants which are considered a significant health hazard.

The argument of constitutional violation does not mean a step towards dismissing state governments for failing to tackle pollution. In the case of environment, it is the shared duty of both the states and the Centre to assure clean air and water. World over, it has now been recognised in certain terms that there are some basic duties that a government should fulfil, foremost of which is protecting the health and wellness of the population by providing quality healthcare and access to food, water and clean air. Despite claims of being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, India continues to fail in this most basic of duties towards its citizens. The courts need to remind the government in stronger terms that abdication of such a basic Constitutional responsibility should not become the new normal.

The Big Scroll

  • No city is an island: Lessons from Delhi’s odd-even experiment.
  • Why farmers burn their fields in Punjab despite knowing that it worsens the fog over north India.
  • India allows 16 new thermal power plants that violate stricter air pollution standards to come up.  


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Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.


Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.