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Delhi Citizens Try out Oxygen Bar as Pollution Chokes them

Gasping for Air, Delhi’s Residents Try Out an Oxygen Bar

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Delhi Toxic Air
An elderly Indian woman seeks alms as youth wearing pollution masks walk through a shopping area in New Delhi, India. VOA

By Anjana Pasricha

As Delhi chokes on air so dirty that many struggle to breathe or develop niggling coughs or far more serious respiratory problems, some residents are heading to an upscale mall for a brief respite.

At the city’s first so-called oxygen bar, they fork out $4 to $7 for a whiff of rejuvenating air.

Among those who get a tube (nasal cannula) tied to their nose for a 15-minute lungful of oxygen is travel agent, Nischay Manchanda.

“Its been quite some time since I have experienced how fresh air feels like, so I saw this place and I thought let’s just try it out,” he told  VOA.

Since the onset of winter, when pollution levels frequently breach the severe category, more customers have been walking into the small Oxy Pure bar that opened earlier this year in the world’s most polluted capital city.

This week, the air pollution index in India’s capital city touched  400, a level at which people are advised to stay indoors. The index measures the particles that become embedded deep in lungs, causing irreversible damage. Anything above 60 is considered unhealthy, and doctors have sounded dire warnings about the dirty air’s impact on public health, saying it can stunt brain development in children or cause lung cancer.

Newspaper vendor Delhi
A newspaper vendor rides his bicycle on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India. VOA

A spell of rain cleaned up the air somewhat Saturday but experts warned that the city would suffer another episode of toxic smog toward the end of the month and into the new year as temperatures drop and stagnant air traps pollutants low over the city.

“People are coming with problems like eye itching, throat paining or they can’t breathe properly,” Bonny Irengbam, the manager at Oxy Pure, said.

There has been a growing public outcry about the toxic air. Worried parents have even called for a “smog break” in schools every year in November when pollution peaks.

Despite several measures to tackle the air pollution crisis, authorities have barely scratched the surface of the problem.

Calling living conditions in Delhi “worse than hell,” Supreme Court judges, who have been monitoring plans to tackle pollution, chastised city authorities two weeks ago.

“Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers?” a two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta asked.

Steps have been taken, including a switch by public transport to cleaner fuel, a ban on the use of dirty industrial fuel, the shutting of coal-fired power plants in Delhi, and construction of new highways so that polluting trucks using diesel do not enter the city.

It has, however, been a case of one step forward and two steps back in a city that has grown at breakneck speed over the last 15 years – 45 million people live in Delhi and surrounding satellite towns. Its fleet of nearly 9 million vehicles continues to grow as the affluent snap up new cars while millions of poor migrants burn polluting fires to stay warm on chilly winter nights. Construction and industrial activity are booming and the number of diesel-powered generators used by factories and offices to make it through power shortfalls, has been growing.

Some people leave the city when it is shrouded in smog.

Sahej Walia, an event manager, said he leaves the city for a few weeks in winter but it is not possible to stay away for three months from November to January, now known as the city’s “pollution season.”

Delhi India Gate
A spell of rain cleaned up the air somewhat Saturday but experts warned that the city would suffer another episode of toxic smog toward the end of the month. VOA

“I was in Goa and the air there was much cleaner, but yeah, once I am back, I could feel the air was bad and my head was spinning all the time,” he said. He walks into the oxygen bar, which he discovered on social media, hoping “this oxygen therapy could help me out.”

Oxy Pure even offers a “pollution special” including five sessions for the price of four.

Foreigners are among those pumping up on oxygen, which comes in flavors such as eucalyptus and lavender.

Inna Ossinkina, a Russian who frequently visits India to study Buddhism, was at the bar not just to escape the pollution but also because breathing the right way ties in with meditation and yoga.

“Ten minutes will not rescue me,” she says,  “I have to then buy a bottle [of oxygen] and go around with a bottle, right?”

As travel agent Manchanda’s session draws to an end, he takes a deep breath.

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“It’s a shame we have to buy air, it’s something that should be there automatically,” he sighs bracing to tackle the smog choked skies once again.

Life for him has changed – a few years ago he says he visited “hookah” bars, now he has to stop by at an oxygen bar. (VOA)

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Digital Transactions in Delhi-NCR Grew by 235% Last Year: Razorpay

Online transactions in Delhi-NCR grew 235% in 2019

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Online Transactions
Online transactions in Delhi-NCR grew by 235 per cent in 2019 and it was the third most digitized region in 2019. Pixabay

Digital transactions in Delhi-NCR grew by 235 per cent from 2018 (January-December) to 2019 (January-December) and the region was the third most digitised state in 2019, thus, contributing 13.05 per cent in 2019 (up from 10.9 per cent in 2018), said a new report by full-stack financial services company Razorpay on Tuesday.

“The last year has been buzzing for the fintech sector in Delhi, with the adoption of new digital payment modes and bringing the digital currency to the mainstream. The last six months saw a tremendous shift in the consumption patterns of businesses and consumer preferences of digital payments in the region.

“With UPI growing by a whopping 442 per cent in Delhi, I am certain that this payment method will overtake cards by at least 20 per cent in the next 12 months,” Harshil Mathur, CEO and co-founder of Razorpay, said in a statement.

Online Transactions
Credit and Debit cards contributed 46 per cent in digital transactions. Pixabay

In 2019, Karnataka saw the highest adoption of digital payments (26.64 per cent) followed by Maharashtra (15.92 per cent) and Delhi NCR (13.01 per cent).

While the usage of cards (46 per cent) and netbanking (11 per cent) saw a decline in 2019, down from 56 per cent and 23 per cent for cards and netbanking, respectively in 2018, UPI (38 per cent) went up from 17 per cent in 2018.

Amazon Pay was the most preferred wallet among consumers (33 per cent), followed by Ola Money (17 per cent) in 2019.

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The top three sectors in digital payment adoption for 2019 were food and beverage (26 per cent), financial services (12.5 per cent) and transportation (8 per cent).

Among UPI, Google Pay contributed 59 per cent, PhonePe contributed 26 per cent, followed by Paytm (7 per cent) and BHIM (6 per cent) in digital transactions in 2019. (IANS)