Will Work From Home Continue After Coronavirus Lockdown In India?
The number of deaths due to Coronavirus as on date is 6 whereas air pollution causes around 12.4 lakh deaths every year according to the statistics of 2017. The question is if we can regulate WFH for Cornoavirus, why not so for the long-term evil of air pollution?
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According to data compiled in World Air Quality Report of 2019, India constitutes twenty-one of the world's thirty cities with the worst air pollution. Ghaziabad, a satellite city of the capital New Delhi in northern Uttar Pradesh state, is ranked as the world's most polluted city, with an average PM 2.5 concentrations of 110.2 as of 2019. The government having incorporated all planned measures only ended up mulling over the need to do something bigger and better.
But the change in the situation happened when China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment reported that the average number of good quality air days has increased by 21.5% in February, compared to the same period last year.
The new satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency showed a massive decline in nitrogen and carbon dioxide emissions released by vehicles, power plants and industries. "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event," said Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize the spread of the virus."
In India, the most populous cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad have observed a significant decline in pollutant levels as reported by System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). There was 45% drop in of nitrogen oxide concentration in Mumbai this month compared to March 2018 and 2019.
How did this happen?
Coronavirus, as an unintended boon in this regard, has swept the roads off the traffic and brought the air pollution levels down in a couple of days.
When the outbreak of Cornoavirus struck India earlier this month with the social media reporting a gradual increase in the effected count, preventive measures started rolling out from everywhere. Schools were closed, social and public gatherings were postponed, and many companies announced work from home for employees.
It is overwhelming that apart from many companies such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, Snapdeal, Uber, Ola, Paytm, Wipro, who had readymade work-from-home solutions, others with no such prevalent modes also attended to the call of the situation by adopting the best possible means.
These include many government organizations where digital media still remains a secondary platform due to dependency on paper and the reluctance to denounce traditional methods amongst the majority of old aged employees. It is no less a wonder that despite such technical and administrative impediments, these companies allowed their employees to arrange WFH framework for themselves or attend office on staggered timings.
Exception lies with the blue-collar jobs such as manufacturing, mining, farming, commercial fishing, food processing, construction, maintenance, shipping, driving, and other types of physical works. But it has been observed that a majority of these employees travels by public transport which utilizes the vehicular capacity to a higher level and hence causes lesser pollution per capita.
While the white collar people who drive their own vehicles or travel in chauffeur-driven cars, are the primary culprits in rise of carbon footprint. According to the reports, the number of such employees is over 20 lakhs all across the country. So a sudden work from home backdrop is no less than a revolution on its own if you keep aside the negative motivation in the form of Coronovirus for a while.
In the emergency situation, while there is a mix of WFM, staggered and conventional mode, there are companies who are preparing for a situation where all employees could be required to work from home, and hence are developing business continuity plans (BCP).
Fewer cars on the road mean less traffic, less time on the road, and therefore less air pollution exposure. Hence now, after people seem to be settling in the new working methodology which can alleviate the pollution to desired levels, more emphasis may be laid to help perpetuate these cultural changes at work. This can be done by:
Administrative and regulatory approval such as acquisition of Other Service Providers (OSP) license from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT).
Proliferation of e-office, digital file management systems and productivity tools
Adoption of AI-driven approaches
Regularization of staggered office timings
Replacement of blue-collar employees with machines and
Upliftment of blue-collar workers
Strengthening of Wi-Fi and other required resources
We are now in a place where we can get the science and technology right, in terms of monitoring air quality and improving our approach by targeting the most impactful strategies, specially after the recurrent failure of odd-even hegemony in Delhi.
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