Pollution in Kolkata – Why a Whole City is Turning Into a Health Hazard!

Pollution levels across India are some of the highest anywhere in the world. And on top of this pile of polluted places sits Kolkata. A once beautiful city has been reduced to a huge garbage yard with tons of plastic waste strewn on every square inch of the city. Along with the number of aging buses and trucks spewing smoke – the various coal fires and dusty construction sites, have made the landscape a wasteland. But what has conspired to create this situation? Why has the West Bengal government turned a blind eye to the transport contractors?

Politics has always been a prominent part of the Kolkata culture. However the excessive politicizing of every issue has made it extremely difficult for legislation to be formed. The government in its quandary chooses to sleep over the various bills in the interest of protecting the environment – rather than irk the contractors who pay for the party funds. This has led to an unhealthy environment of government apathy and general callousness, especially in taking care of the living conditions. In its mandate to “provide rights to the poor” they have totally neglected the harm being caused to the environment by the millions of poor in the city.

The classic case of rampant pollution in the city of Kolkata are the buses and trucks plying the roads. In a recent move, a number of NGOs had petitioned that the pollution norms be strictly applied to the errant bus contractors. However the ministry decided to make the announcement with a rider that “people with genuine reasons can get a reprieve from the pollution control measures”!! This kind of obvious molly coddling of the transport contractors have further emboldened them, making it impossible for the police on the ground to fine the law breakers.

Plastic bags is another area where the West Bengal government has failed to check pollution. Elsewhere in all other major cities of India, plastic bags are banned as they cause widespread pollution which is difficult to remove. But not in Kolkata – where the “poor” have to carry their daily bread in plastic bags! The result is that the drainage system is choked in the city and the roads look like an unending garbage yard. Filth and disease accumulate in this waste causing diseases and generally making the whole city an unhealthy place to live in.

The present CPIM government is on its way out. They lost in all the by-polls. Here is hoping that the new government when it arrives, will be able to get rid pf the lethargy and inaction. If the laws are not implemented soon this city is going to become uninhabitable in the next few years! It is time the West Bengal government understood that “giving rights to the poor” does not mean that the environment can be abused!…

The Media and Social Problems

The mass media plays a large role in modern society. Indeed, many have argued that people spend more time watching television than in actual human interaction. The film industry is a billion dollar a year enterprise and most individuals tune in daily to their favorite radio station. With all this power, one would think that the mass media would be in an excellent position to initiate social change, positively affect social problems, and help combat social ills that are considered deviant. However, the mass media has largely failed in addressing social problems and if anything, has contributed to the problems that exist in this society. As seen through its presentation of the three major variables of race, class, and gender, the mass media has actually contributed to the social problems it covers, reinforcing them and the various stereotypes that exist, creating a vicious cycle in which these problems continue.

Television has become perhaps the primary vehicle that society receives its information and presents its values and expectations. One of the most important roles television plays is its presentation of news and information. What a station chooses to present as newsworthy can play a strong role in how people view their society and the world around them. Often, television news sources have a tendency to only broadcast negative images of minorities. On a nightly basis, individuals are bombarded with stories of minorities engaging in robberies, murders, and rapes, as if minorities are the only ones who monopolize these types of crimes. Very rare are the stories of the inner-city minority male youth who is a scholar or the young mother, who in spite of the odds stacked up against her, graduates from college. In this way, the television media plays a strong role in formulating racial problems. With the constant display of these negative images, two problems quickly emerge.

First, these minority groups become subject to stereotypes as the images presented become fixed mental images and are exaggerated and applied to the group as a whole. Whites, who are the dominant culture, watching the news, learn that minority groups are less intelligent, more violent, and generally less human. Additionally, the minority groups themselves can develop reactions that are turned inward and create a sense of hopelessness, despair, and self‑doubt that can lead into even more sociological problems in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, aggression, and crime. Thus, the images presented by television news help contribute to this vicious, self‑reinforcing, cycle and offers little, if any solutions for the problem of racism.

Closely linked to race becomes issues of class. Since the lifestyles of poor, inner-city minorities are portrayed and viewed negatively; a flight of capital and economic activity develops in conjunction with the stereotypes. Those with capital avoid neighborhoods seen as violent or dangerous, and money is not spent or invested in these communities. Once this happens, minorities become trapped in an economic isolation that is devastating. Jobs quickly disappear, and welfare reforms are doomed to failure without hope of …