New Delhi: Delhi orders closing of schools from Friday after the Supreme Court came down hard on the AAP government for “forcing children to go to school” amid rising levels of pollution. Announcing the order, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said the schools in the national capital will remain closed till further orders.
“We have already closed commercial vehicular entry in Delhi, construction and demolition work is banned in Delh. We will follow any order given by the court,” said Rai.
The Supreme Court on Thursday slammed the Delhi government for opening schools and also over its ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign to curb vehicular pollution. A clearly displeased apex court further observed that despite high levels of pollution, nothing was being done about it.
“When the government implemented work from home for adults then why children are being forced to go to school,” the SC asked Delhi government over its decision to reopen the schools on November 29 for all the classes.
A special bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the Aam Aadmi Party government had made various assurances such as work from home, lockdown, and closure of schools and colleges in the previous hearings. “We feel there is nothing happening, in spite of air pollution levels rising in Delhi,” the Court observed while hearing today.
Poor Young Boys Standing With Banners: SC
The Supreme Court also termed the Delhi government’s ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign as nothing but a popular slogan. “Poor young boys standing in the middle of the road with banners, who is taking care of their health? Again, we’ve to say, other than the popularity slogan, what else is it?” the bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said.
Appearing for the Delhi government, Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi referred to the affidavit and said the government had taken various measures. “This is another cause of pollution, so many affidavits daily,” the bench then remarked.
“Is it disclosed in the affidavit how many of these young boys are on the road? For publicity? A young boy standing in the middle of the road with a banner in hand. What is this? Someone has to take care of their health,” the bench quipped.
In response, Singhvi said the “boys” were civil volunteers. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had initiated the ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign from October 21 to November 15, saying that even if 10 lakh vehicles in the city joined the campaign, the PM10 levels would fall by 1.5 tonnes and PM2.5 by 0.4 tonnes in a year.
Under the initiative, government officials from the transport department, volunteers and traffic police urge commuters to switch off their vehicles while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. The government then extended the campaign till November 30.
Delhi Air Quality Remains ‘Very Poor’
The air quality in the national capital continued to remain in the ‘very poor’ category on Thursday morning, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi on Thursday morning was recorded at 312.An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.
The Delhi government has put a ban on all construction activities in the national capital till further orders.
In November, Delhi’s air quality was the worst for the month in seven years with the city witnessing severe pollution on 11 days and not a single “good” air quality day, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.