City schools will close for a winter break from November 9 to 18 – in view of the toxic smog that has blanketed the city for six straight days – the Delhi government said Wednesday.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Environment Minister Gopal Rai and attended by Education Minister Atishi, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot and senior Delhi government officials.
The decision to bring forward the vacation – usually in December-January – was made to protect children’s health. However, to ensure their education is on track, it will be offset against the traditional break period.
On Monday, Mr Rai had announced that all Delhi schools had been directed to suspend physical classes, except for those in Class 10 and 12, till Friday due to alarming air pollution levels.
The Delhi government is scrambling to contain the poisonous air hanging over residents’ heads, but with little success. The AQI this morning was 418; in Noida it was 409, and in Gurugram it was 370.
As part of anti-pollution measures, the fourth stage of a Graded Response Action Plan have been invoked, and (among other steps) diesel trucks and construction activities have been banned.
The Delhi government had also announced the comeback of the odd-even rule – under which vehicular traffic is restricted based on the last digit of the registration number. The rule was to be re-instated for a week starting the day after Diwali, but there are now question marks over the scheme.
This is after the Supreme Court – hearing a clutch of petitions on the air quality crisis – called such measures “optics” and demanded the Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to work together to contain and resolve the problem, with the focus (again) on farm fires.
“We want it (stubble burning leading to farm fires) stopped. We don’t know how you do it, it’s your job. But it must be stopped. Something has to be done immediately,” the court said.