This is the fourth book that I read on environment and ecology in quick succession, is this some kind of sign?
Sanjay Yadav writes with extreme passion, a passion that he has for Delhi or to use his term Mid-Yamuna region that includes the erstwhile Braj region and would include parts of present-day Haryana, Rajasthan, and Western UP. As the title suggests, the issue that the author talks about is of the environmental crisis that the capital city of India faces. Based on his study and analysis, he has come out with his own reasoning for the current environmental state of Delhi, especially that of Yamuna. In his introductory chapter, he gives some facts and figures to emphasize the magnitude of the crisis. And sets the context for the rest of the Environmental Crisis of Delhi book. Though he never touches these facts and figures again in the book. Though the author warns in the beginning, still the repetitions in the book are irritating and take away the joy of reading.
Throughout the book Environmental Crisis of Delhi, the author has a single grouse. And that is the number of migrants in the city. He thinks that all possible problems that Delhi faces today are because of its migrant population. Amongst the migrants also he has his chosen targets that he wants out of Delhi. Top of the list are Punjabis, followed closely by Biharis and Bengalis. And then by Oriyas and Malayalis. In fact, the whole book revolves around the premise that these communities need to be thrown out of Delhi. And they are the primarily responsible for the environmental degradation of the Delhi region. He wants Delhi to be restored to its native residents. By way of keeping land only for them and by giving them all possible jobs in the region. He is also angry at the institutions that are spread across Delhi and occupy the prime land.
Incidentally, the author has not devoted any space to define the aboriginal communities of Delhi. He has not even listed the communities that existed in the Delhi region say before a certain date, which could be the date of India’s independence. Or a date before the British made it their capital. Or the date before the Muslim dynasties started ruling from here. Since the author is so much against the communities that came from various parts of India to work here and finally thrived to an extent that they made it their home, he should have at least introduced us to the natives of Delhi whom he is arguing for.
He keeps repeating that the natives of Delhi have suffered since ages and continue to suffer till date. Their lands have been snatched and given away to migrants. He should at least have some data on the natives and where they are at this point in time. And how they are doing as a community. Is it not possible that their absolute numbers in Delhi have not changed but their percentage has gone down because of the ever-expanding Metropolis that Delhi is?
I liked the chapter where he describes the Yamuna and its three different regions. The upper Yamuna that starts from Yamunotri. The origin of Yamuna and goes on till it enters Haryana in Yamuna Nagar. In this part, the river is in alpine climatic conditions. Next comes the long mid-Yamuna region. Which starts from Haryana and goes through Delhi till Etawah in Southwestern UP. This region is arid with few desert patches. And the river is very thin in this region. Post Etawah, a few tributaries merge in the Yamuna and rejuvenate it till it merges with Ganga at Allahabad. Going by this analysis, Yamuna can support heavy population after Etawah. But between Yamunanagar and Etawah, it does not have the required flow to sustain too many people on its banks.
Unfortunately, Delhi, Agra, and Mathura lie in this mid-Yamuna zone and put undue pressure on it. This is very true and anyone looking at the Yamuna in Delhi would find it difficult to believe that this is the mighty mythological river that we read and hear so much about. I think bringing this analysis of the region of Yamuna is the best thing that I learned from this book Environmental Crisis of Delhi. Maybe we all knew this subconsciously. Maybe environmentalist knew it always. But it is definitely not a general knowledge. And this is definitely not a data point that is going to the planning departments of our governments.
At one level the arguments put forth by the author look cynical. Especially when he keeps thrashing some communities and their ouster seems to be his only solution for all the problems of Delhi. But at another level, it is a very emotional approach to the problem that we cannot deny acknowledging. There are so many factors besides the ever-growing population. Sure there is a need for policy-based solutions. There is a need to develop other cities so that there is not just one locus point in the whole of North India.
Author demands a uniquely identifiable identity for the people of mid-Yamuna basin with a recognized language (here again he provides no details on what the native language of the region is, which is currently identified as Hindi). He proudly mentions the contribution of this region to art, culture, and literature of the sub-continent. Which is worth a reading. This region had been the region of Mahabharata and Lord Krishna. And hence has all the mythology and history soaked in it. This needs to be highlighted. And I guess there are organizations working towards it.
We cannot have a single point solution to such a deep and wide problem. The author needs to understand that. He needs to understand the global dynamics of the day where communities are moving constantly across the world. Some parts are more densely populated than others. And it is as true for all megacities of the world. And to some extent, the world as the population overall is increasing. With his kind of passion, I would urge him to explore other facets and come out with well-rounded solutions that take care of the given conditions. At least come out with the clear research on who are the natives, where are they distributed, what are they engaged in. How are they being educated, why are they out of opportunities if they are? What is their language and what they want?
My question to all the people who want the migrants out of their cities and regions is: Can you ask the natives of your community who are living out of own region to come back first? I know this is practically impossible. So if it is so for your own community, it is also so for the non-native communities living in your region. Agreed, there are some regions or cities to be precise which face this more than others. But instead of blaming the migrants who grab the opportunities that you think rightly belong to you, can you look at what is lacking in your own native group which is letting go of those opportunities in other hands.
It is not always a planned sabotage. But circumstantially some communities become more aggressive for their survival at certain points in time. And in the long run, end up being a dominant group.
And have we forgotten “Vasudhaiv Kutumambakam”. But this is my view, the view of an eternal migrant, who has never lived in her own region or any other region for more than a few years.
Buy this book – The Environmental Crisis of Delhi by Sanjay Yadav at Amazon India.