NEW DELHI'S appalling air quality turned a lot worse over the weekend as Hindus in India's capital burned effigies of the mythological demon King Ravana and lit firecrackers to celebrate the triumph of good over evil during the Dussehra festival.

As pollution spiked on Monday morning, India Gate - a monument near the Prime Minister Modi's office - was blanketed in smog, and the mega-city's 20 million people breathed in ''very poor'' air, even  ''hazardous'' in some places.

US President Donald Trump cited India for its ''filthy'' air during the presidential debate last week, prompting  Democratic rival Joe Biden to tweet :

''It's not how you talk about friends - and it's not how you solve global challenges like climate change.''

But, for all the angst displayed on social media by some Indians over Trump's comments, the country's own pollution watchdog delivered the inescapable truth with another dreadful daily reading.

According to Central Pollution Control Board's air quality index [AQI] any reading above 100 on the scale of 500 becomes  progressively unsafe for health.

On Monday afternoon in the capital the AQI struck 347, while for some areas like Sonia Vihar it was as high as 439, well into the hazardous zone. [Reuters]


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