The Supreme Court gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Delhi government and the Centre to take concrete action against pollution in Delhi.
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai on Thursday announced that all schools in Delhi will remain closed from Friday till any further order is issued in this regard, owing to the present pollution levels in the city, news agency ANI reported. The decision comes after the chief justice of India, NV Ramana, rapped the Delhi government on reopening schools amid the threatening levels of pollution. Noting that while elders are allowed to work from home, the Supreme Court bench asked the government why the children are being exposed to the health hazard.
“We had reopened schools considering the forecast that air quality would improve. However, the air pollution levels have increased again and we have decided to shut schools from Friday till further orders,” Gopal Rai said.
Advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, informed the Supreme Court that sending their children to schools to attend physical classes is voluntary and if the apex court wants, the government can suspend offline classes. “Don’t use our shoulder. You are the government, you have to take action. You are saying whoever wants to come, come; you want to stay at home, stay. If you give an option, everyone will come, who wants to stay at home,” the CJI said.
“We take your statements in court seriously and true. One thing you told was schools are closed. But schools are not closed. Small children have to go in morning in fog. There’s no respect? See today’s paper. Children are going. I know children who are going to school. Don’t attract orders. Everything we need not tell you. We respect you. So elders have work from home and children have to go to school?” Chief Justice NV Ramana said hearing a case related to Delhi’s air pollution.
The pollution levels in Delhi worsened on Thursday as air quality went into the severe category from Wednesday’s ‘very poor’. According to the Central Pollution Control Board’ (CPCB) website, the hourly air quality index (AQI)) of Delhi stood at 416 at 7 am on Thursday. The average 24-hour AQI of the city on Wednesday was 370.
The Supreme Court had earlier suggested a lockdown to address the issue of health hazards arising out of increasing levels of pollution in the capital. In the middle of November, the Delhi government announced the closure of physical classes and asked offices to work from home. Construction activities were also suspended. After being shut for a brief period, schools resumed physical classes from November 29, as teh air quality saw a little improvement in between.