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Delhi Air Emergency Plan: Supreme Court Asks Centre for ‘2-Day Lockdown?’

The Supreme Court has ordered the Central Government to prioritize an emergency plan over long-term measures with Delhi and nearby cities blanketed in smog for more than a week now. Chief Justice NV Ramana said, ‘You see how grim the situation is….even in our houses, we are wearing masks’. Asking the centre and states to submit their responses 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?’.

The centre and Punjab and Haryana will hold an emergency meeting later today, the court was informed. ‘Go beyond (the) responsibility of governments (centres or states) when analyzing the issue. Something needs to happen so that we feel better at least for the next two-three days,’ the Chief Justice said. The Delhi air is ‘like smoking 20 cigars a day,’ the state government admitted to the court, stressing, ‘We understand the gravity of the situation’.

In the midst of the most terrible air quality of the season in the national capital on Friday, the central pollution watchdog advised people to stay indoors. While reassuring that steps are being taken to stop stubble burning, a significant factor behind an increase in air pollution, the central government had earlier told the court, ‘We are taking steps to stop stubble burning, but Punjab needs to buckle up’.

This led the Chief Justice to respond, ‘Why are you projecting that (pollution) is the fault of farmers? There is only a portion of pollution caused by farmers. What about the rest? You tell us what you are doing to reduce pollution in Delhi, and not about 2-3 days’. Chandrachud asserts that farming cannot change without incentives, adding that enforcing it just by itself is not feasible. Despite subsidies, many farmers cannot purchase machines for stubble burning, the court noted. You banned firecrackers but what about what has been happening in last 5-6 days,’ Justice Surya Kant said.

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Tushar Mehta, representing the centre, later clarified: ‘We are not saying only farmers are affected. We never said that’. In a sharp rebuke to the Delhi government, the court further stated: ‘You opened all schools two weeks back. Children are exposed to this hazardous air every day. Air quality has deteriorated a great deal since last week after the crackers ban was widely violated on Diwali. The burning of stubble in Punjab and Haryana has also caused the AQI levels to drop sharply.



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