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The Express Tribune Editorial 11 December 2020

Let there be noise

 

Despite the ever-rising noise pollution in big cities of the country, there is not much awareness about the harmful effects of sound pollution. Our increasing inability to lend our ears to good counsel can be gauged from the fact that even a day like Dec 10 marked Noise Pollution Day went largely unnoticed in most of the country, as there were no seminars, workshops or other related activities concerning the issue. The Punjab Environment Protection Department says since for the past few years they have been focusing on smog, they have been unable to observe the day in a serious manner. However, they have not achieved any notable success in combating the smog either, which shows up in the deteriorating air quality in major cities of the province.
A senior official of the department says it does not have any record of noise pollution. This is even when technology to measure noise pollution is available, and the World Bank is also said to have provided money to control this kind of pollution. The government only advises people on preventive measures. People from residential areas have long been urging the government to shift factories from their areas, but ironically the reverse is being witnessed. Neither is there concrete action against vehicles causing noise pollution. Sound pollution causes deafness, mental stress, blood pressure; and disturbs students in their studies and people engaged in activities where concentration is needed. It is very harmful to those suffering from chronic illnesses. There is the need to increase plantation of trees as they act as a good sound barrier.
There is traffic noise, factory noise, noise of the noisy variety of music, currently the most popular music. There is noise at and around construction sites; there is noise when two or more people fight and also when they shout at one another; and added to this group is the increasing noise in parliament. Many people know the harm caused by noise pollution, yet they cannot act to prevent it.

 

 

India farmers’ protest

 

The two-week-long protests by Indian farmers keep growing and gaining steam. Farmers leaders now plan to intensify the nationwide protests from this weekend by blocking national highways and toll plazas. The farmers’ main grievance is against new farm laws that they say are designed to benefit big companies that are already making billions even while the national economy flounders under the impact of India’s pathetic Covid-19 response. Now they stand to make even more money off their agriculture interests. Meanwhile, poor farmers stand to lose as deregulation will cost them guaranteed sale prices and allow large food companies to dictate the prices of their crops.
While the government claims they will let control prices remain, the truth is that many farmers were already being shortchanged by corporate customers. Modi just formalised it. While the government claims the move is intended to increase efficiency in the agriculture sector, the problem is that those who lose or quit farming — agriculture accounts for half of India’s workforce — have no other options. They are not educated enough to find any reasonable alternative means of income, which is not to say they are making much even now. After all, that is why we regularly read about Indian farmers committing suicide due to poverty.
But these laws, like so many other controversial ones recently passed by the Modi government, involved no input from actual farmers. Yet, instead of admitting to their mistake and negotiating amendments with the farmers, India has turned its brutal law enforcers on them. Meanwhile, their internet propaganda squads are slandering their own citizens, from celebrities and activists backing the farmers, to entire ethnic groups, and even subsistence farmers. Unsurprisingly, when Canada, the UK, and others spoke out against the violence, the fascist government told them off. Meanwhile, here in Pakistan, the increasing pressure on the Indian government has caused concern in security circles, with speculation that Modi may try another false flag operation to change the news cycle.

 

 

All eyes on Lahore

 

The government and the PDM are in no mood to sit down and talk. Well, their stated positions indicate so. The Prime Minister sounds confident that no amount of agitation can unsettle his position, let alone dislodge him from power. Maryam Nawaz, on the other hand, is braced for ‘aar ya paar’ i.e. ‘do or die’ — a line of action that Fazlur Rehman had decided pretty earlier. Free from the coronavirus, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also got back in the midst of all action, though he is still not sure about the cost and benefit of resigning from the assemblies en masse.
All eyes, meanwhile, are on Lahore which will host the last of six public gatherings meant to muster support against the government in lead-up to a ‘long march’ to the federal capital designed to remove the PM. While Maryam is out to moblise the public ahead of the Lahore rally on December 13, the government is doing all what falls within its administrative domain to stop the opposition from managing a big show at Minar-e-Pakistan. Additional police force has been called to the city; participants of a PML-N bike rally have been booked; and shipping containers are being moved to block roads within the city and seal its entry points.
Lahore’s response may, however, cause the two sides to rearrange their positions. If the PDM is able to draw a sizeable crowd at the December 13 gathering, it is likely to compel the government to engage them in a dialogue – at least through backchannels. An ordinary turnout on the other hand may give confidence to the government to pursue its strategy of applying administrative hindrances with even greater force — and this may well lead to some serious confrontation.
While a dialogue does not seem to be an immediate possibility — at least until the long march — a negotiated settlement of issues is what’s advisable for the continuation of the political system in the best interest of the country and the nation. Remember, in the realms of politics, compromise is synonymous with progress. It is the give-and-take that carves out the way forward.

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