The Big Story: Cover up

The scenes at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadium on Sunday were a useful reminder of how ineffectively the Indian authorities have responded to the terrible air quality that has afflicted much of North India for the past month. Most members of the Sri Lankan men’s cricket team walked out on to the hazy field wearing pollution masks. The air-quality indicator levels were in the mid-200s, levels at which Beijing’s emergency plan kicks into effect but have become quite normal in Delhi and other North Indian towns. Members of the Sri Lankan team were facing evident difficulty, halting the action twice. One of their fast bowlers threw up in the morning session.

Yet India’s response was annoyance, anger and a bit of whataboutery. Indian captain Virat Kohli was visibly unhappy at the stoppages in play, and eventually declared the Indian innings to get on with it. At one point, Indian coach Ravi Shastri marched onto the field to demand that the umpires get on with the game. In the stands and online, Indian fans claimed that the Sri Lankan team was stalling play because India was batting so well. Afterwards, acting president of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, CK Khanna said, “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have a problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why the Sri Lankan team made a big fuss.”

Ironically, only a couple of weeks ago, the same Virat Kohli appealed to the people of Delhi to take action the pollution. Yet when it came down to the match itself, a Sri Lankan team that was evidently not able to handle the smog was only a source of annoyance, not solidarity.

Imagine if the Indian team had also come out wearing pollution masks. Consider what might have happened if the team told the cricket board that they would play in cities where the air quality index level endangers their health. Imagine the message that might have gone across to those in the capital and elsewhere who insist that the pollution isn’t all that bad because it is not killing people (at least not right in front of our eyes).

A month after North India had a heated discussion about pollution, the concerns have abated from the front pages and the talk shows. But while it may not be as horrible outside, the air is still treacherous. The sight of the Sri Lankan team wearing masks is a useful reminder that we should not take this horrible air quality for normal. We need more of that and less of Indian authorities trying to wish the smog away.

The Big Scroll

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  1. Gautam Bhatia in the Hindu writes about an alarming trend of creeping judicial censorship, increasingly across large domains.
  2. “You are not a Christian or a Parsi or a Muslim or a Jew. You are a non-Hindu. Sit on the sidelines and watch us fight over who the real Hindu is, is the message BJP and Congress have driven home,” writes Robin David in the Times of India.
  3. Industry bigwigs in Bollywood have no stakes in freedom of speech, they push no boundaries, writes Bhaskar Chawla in the Indian Express.
  4. It is satisfying that the slide in economic growth has ended, but the actual strength of the recovery will only become clear after a few quarters,” says a leader in Mint.
  5. “Ultimately, until the media is truly free, and its journalistic capacity is bolstered, we will not know which protests have traction, and which are media-manufactured at the behest of vested interests,” writes Huma Yusuf in Dawn.


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