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“2-Day lockdown in Delhi?”: Action by centre after days of ‘severe’ air pollution

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date
“2-Day lockdown in Delhi?”: Action by centre after days of ‘severe’ air pollution

New Delhi: With Delhi and nearby cities blanketed in smog for over a week now, the Supreme Court today told the central government to prioritise an emergency plan over long-term measures as Chief Justice NV Ramana said, “You see how bad the situation is….even in our houses, we are wearing masks.”

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Asking the centre and states to submit their response by Monday, the Chief Justice said: “You tell us how do you plan to take the emergency measures? Two-day lockdown? What is your plan on lowering the AQI (Air Quality Index) levels?”.

An emergency meeting will be held later today between the centre and states, including Punjab and Haryana, the court was told.

Breathing the Delhi air is “like smoking 20 cigarattes a day,” the state government admitted in the court, stressing, “We agree to the gravity of the situation.” As the national capital saw the season’s worst air quality on Friday, the central pollution watchdog advised people to stay indoors.

Assuring that steps are being taken to stop stubble burning, a significant factor amid an increase in the air pollution, the central government, putting the onus on Punjab, had earlier told the court, “We are taking steps to stop stubble burning. But in (the) last five-six days the kind of pollution, we have seen is because of (the) stubble burning in Punjab. The state government needs to buckle up…”

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To this, the Chief Justice replied, “Why are you projecting like (the) pollution is because of farmers? It is only certain percentage of pollution. What about the rest? What are you doing to control the pollution in Delhi? You tell us what is your proper plan…not about 2-3 days.”

If farmers don’t get an incentive, a change is unlikely, Justice DY Chandrachud pointed out, adding, “Enforcement can’t happen just like that.” Despite subsidy, many farmers are not able to buy machines for stubble burning, the court observed.

“It has become a fashion for everyone to bash the farmers. You banned firecrackers but what about what has been happening in last 5-6 days,” Justice Surya Kant said.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the centre, later clarified, “We are not saying that it’s only farmers. We never said that.”

The argument got heated when the Solictor General Mehta told the court: “We are taking steps on dust control. The state governments also have (a) responsibility. It’s a shared responsibility. I would request that state governements also file an affidavit on Monday.”

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The Chief Justice, responding to the remarks, said: “I said something and you took serious objection.”

As the Solicitor General replied in the negative, the Chief Justice elaboarated, “I don’t want to say what percentage but some percentage is stubble (burning) but rest is dust, vehicles in Delhi.”

Children are also being exposed to the air pollution with schools open, Justice Chandrachud stressed during the hearing, “We are exposing little children. Schools are open. (AIIMS Chief) Dr (Randeep) Guleria said there is Covid, dengue and pollution and children are going out in this kind of weather.”

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