Winter is coming. And Delhi's air is hazardous again.
From Bawana to Jahangirpuri, Shahdara, Anand Vihar and Dwarka, the level of PM10 pollution at every bustling hub in the National Capital was between 350-700 last night.
While Delhi's little slumland factories, huffing trucks, and an inordinately large number of private vehicles must take the blame, the biggest contributor to this invisible poison is stubble burning. Smoke from croplands, mainly from Punjab, accounted for 44 percent of Delhi's pollution, according to reports.
The Centre and Delhi governments have flagged this with Punjab, while holding numerous meeting with their Haryana and Uttar Pradesh counterparts. Both the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court have again issued strict edicts burning of crop residue. The Haryana government is appealing to gram sabhas to stop this. The Uttar Pradesh government has resolved to stop the practice.
But Congress-ruled Punjab has continued to look the other way or find puerile excuses to allow its farmers to burn the crop stubble to make the soil ready for a new crop cycle.
Farm animals don't chew on the post-monsoon field straw and so it has no value for farmers. But it has industrial use in biomass power plants, paper manufacturing, brick kilns, and fertilisers which Punjab has failed to tap into.
And so, the crop stubble is still being burnt widely, while Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is in denial so that he doesn't lose Punjab's crucial farmer vote.
The Congress' duplicity in this matter is astounding. Pollution from Punjab's stubble burning is at a four-year high, but none in the party leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, has made any noise about it. The same lot held protests to stop the Farmers' Bill, which, on paper, has freed the agricultural economy and poor farmers from the clutch of middlemen.
The Congress is also mighty upset that US president and election candidate Donald Trump called the air in India 'filthy' along with China and Russia. Trump is a habitual motormouth who plays to his blue-collared white constituency who want to blame everything on foreign powers. It is Trump's pre-election politics.
But who will be responsible for the utter embarrassment due to Delhi's toxic air when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Ester come calling next week? Has Rahul Gandhi, who smirked through his luxury tractor photo-ops, sent out a single caveat to the Punjab government? No.
The Congress' misery stems from its total disingenuity about issues and the firm belief that its first family can bluster its way through them. It is wrong. The electorate increasingly sees and punishes dishonesty. Choking the Capital with pollution will neither harm the BJP or the Delhi government in the long run. People are smart. It will damage the Congress and eventually lead to the rare government it has in Punjab to be discredited.
The Captain, if not the dynasts, must understand this.