I’m really not, on the whole, a ‘New Year Column’ more or less guy. But this Diwali, as the world is overtaken by gloom and Delhi is submerged under smog, I thought I would give it a shot. For many who seem bemused by the concept that this is the New Year, remember the fact that for Gujaratis, the new year begins on the day after Diwali. (Whether you follow the inventory market, then, of class lesson, you already realize that.)
This has been a year so full of death, darkness and catastrophe, that I reckon that things can only recover. And here’s what I’m hoping for in the New Year.
First: I’m hoping for some relief from the pandemic. It is an increasing number of lucid as time goes on that a) we still realize very little approximately the virus and b) in India, a minimum of, doctors have no idea how the pandemic is going to play out. Take, as an example, the upward thrust in the number of cases in Delhi. We are told that it is on account of pollution (though there’s no agreement on the exact mechanism of how pollution causes this rise) and that leaves us a little mystified. There are now lower temperatures and clouds of dark smoke from stubble- burning in all places North India. Why does Delhi see a immense increase in cases while the remainder of North India remains less vulnerable?
In the end, I’m hoping and pray that things recover. It is lucid that these improvements will not come from public health authorities or from our fellow-citizens, too many of whom continue to disregard social distancing norms and take a cavalier attitude to mask wearing.
Our best hope is that a minimum of one of the vital many vaccines that will hit the market in the following few months will offer protection to us. Both the Oxford and the Moderna vaccines must be here soon together with other shots, from Russia, from our own scientists, from Pfizer, and a host of others.
Till the vaccine is widely disseminated, let’s just accept that the pandemic will not go absent. There was too much of false hope.
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Second: This probably applies more to Delhi than anywhere else but we need to do something positive about pollution. As it is, the air in many (whether not most) of India’s cities is naughty but in Delhi it is pure poison. Whether the pandemic does not get you, the pollution will.
There is not any easy solution to the pollution problem but there is one object which could make a difference: an end to stubble burning in Punjab. Naughty farmers burn their stubble because they want to make their fields able for the next crop. You’ll use machines to do away with the stubble but the farmers are too bad to come up with the money for them. The most obvious object to do would be for the government to pay for the machines.
This presents its own problems. The Punjab government is broke. The Delhi government does not have the resources to pay for machines in Punjab. It could be done relatively easily by the Centre which does have the money but as neither Punjab nor Delhi voted for the ruling party, they come low on the Centre’s list of priorities. So year after year, we complain approximately pollution, but nothing happens.
Will the Centre after all spend the money? I’m hoping it does in the coming year. And that we don’t have to wait till the next election in Delhi where this could timed change into an issue and gratuity the Centre’s hand.
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Third: There is too much hatred on the earth. This takes many forms including the upward thrust in terror, both in the name of religion and for other causes.
Ten years ago, who would have imagined that a US Presidential candidate would call for a ban on Muslims entering america and then get elected? Who would have dreamt that members of India’s ruling party would compliment Nathuram Godse even while the Prime Minister spoke approximately Gandhiji’s contribution to our freedom?
The phenomenon of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam isn’t new. But it has now reached levels that were prior to now not possible. The old excuse approximately terror being your best option left open to desperate men whose country had been stolen from them, no longer works.
Today’s jehadis are young, affluent, well-educated and regularly (as with regards to the London bombers) they have got enjoyed the entire benefits offered by the societies they attack. Up to now normal Muslims watch jehadi fabric on the internet and then plough their cars into pedestrians walking peacefully on a pavement. Or they take kitchen knives and stab whoever happens to be around.
This isn’t just terrorism. It is insanity on an unprecedented scale. Some of this emerges out of a crisis in Islam where the crazies now occupy too much space. But the backlash this engenders will also be as ugly and is unfair to blameless Muslims who have nothing to do with the lunatics.
I’m hoping and pray that we can see an end to, or a minimum of, a discount in, hate this year.
But no, I’m really not hopeful.
Fourth: I continuously wonder whether we can ever return to civility in public discourse. It is tough to imagine that there was once a time when people went on TV to throw light on an issue. Now the whole purpose of a ‘debate’ is to receive people to shout at every other. Whether they don’t make enough noise, then the anchor joins in and does some shouting himself.
And what approximately social media? It has made people so impolite, so abusive, so dismissive of other people’s points of view and so able to pass judgments that I have begun to fear for the collective sanity of our society.
Will that change? Mannered, I will only hope.
And after all: Is that too ambitious a list of things to hope for in the new year? Probably. But one, I think, will happen. The pandemic, a minimum of will end or slow down this year.
As for the rest, timed, we will be able to’t blame a virus for those.
We will be able to only blame ourselves.
Yet, it is all the time good to hope!
Happy Diwali. Happy New Year!
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