New Delhi: Accustomed to cooler climes and salubrious environment in the Valley, a group of Kashmiri girl students were in for a rude shock when they arrived in Delhi, at a time when the city is grappling with deteriorating air quality.
A group of about 20 students accompanied by two teachers from various schools at Naugaon in Jammu and Kashmir are in national capital for the first time, as part of a national integration tour, organised by the army.
The students, from classes 7-11 arrived here on Monday and have visited the Red Fort, Rajghat and Connaught Place market in Delhi, and Wednesday interacted with Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat. They will also see the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah and take a metro ride before heading to Chandigarh, an official accompanying them said.
When Rawat asked the students, what did they like about Kashmir, many students, replied in unison, “Clean air and water”.
Mehak Muskan, a student of Army Goodwill School in Kupwara district, said, “We are all coming to Delhi for the first time. And, the air here is not fit to breath. We are used to clean air, and the poor air is causing trouble to us.”
The 15-year-old student was not the only one complaining about the poor air quality in Delhi, her classmate, Mehnaz Siddiqui, 16, said, she also “did not feel good breathing the toxic air”.
Delhi’s air quality remained in the very poor category Wednesday, though authorities expressed hope that a slight improvement may be observed in the next few days due to increased wind speed.
The Central Pollution Control Board recorded an overall air quality index (AQI) of 332, which falls in the “very poor” category.
Rawat also asked them if they had seen Bangus Valley, and the reply was a loud “yes” from the group.
The Bangus Valley is a Himalayan sub-valley of the Kashmir valley, situated in the north area of Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is a very beautiful place and replete with a diverse variety of flora and fauna. I have visited there, and the Delhi air quality is making me miss that place even more,” said 14-year-old Nighat Ara, another student.
Rawat also, in his address to them, said, “There is no other place like Kashmir when it comes to scenic beauty and a sublime environment. But, terrorism has vitiated the atmosphere.”
Muskan and Mehnaz also said that they were emotionally moved by seeing needy people begging in the streets, especially children in Delhi, and appealed to the society to work towards bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
“Delhi has so many rich people, from all walks of life. Can they not spare a small portion of their money for those poor people, who have nothing. We need to have an equitable society,” said Mehnaz, who wants to become a doctor.
Muskan, when asked, what she wanted to become in life, said, “I just want to become a good human being, who cares for others. Those people who don’t have a heart are the poorest.”