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As Delhi's kids struggle to breathe, parents insist govt put off 'grand' Children's Day celebrations

The Delhi education department’s plans for a grand Children’s Day celebrations amidst a sharp dip in air quality has come in for flack from parents.

Although deputy chief minister and education minister Manish Sisodia announced that schools would be shut on Wednesday, the decision to hold grand celebrations on 14 November has still not been revoked.

On Monday, Sisodia announced at a press conference that the education department is planning a grand program called 'Delhi for children.'

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

"A number of activities such as street plays, theatre, sports events will be organised in coordination with resident welfare associations, market associations, NGOs and individuals working in the field of child welfare," Sisodia said.

That announcement was made a day before Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA)—a government constituted committee—recommended a slew of emergency measures to curb air pollution.

Following the EPCA reccomendations, Sisodia told the media on Tuesday: "All primary schools will remain closed tomorrow. If needed, the order will be extended to Thursday."

However, parents are still worried.

“If the decision to hold celebrations on Children's Day stays in place, given the air quality, what difference does shutting down schools make?" asks Ashok Agarwal, president, All India Parent’s Association.

“By organizing a sports event on 14 November, is the Delhi government saying that it wants children to breathe poisonous air on Children’s Day?” asked Ashutosh Dixit, an office bearer of United Residents Joint Action, a common platform of Delhi Resident Welfare Association.

Though the education department is yet to finalise details of the celebrations, parents said they had every reason to believe the events would be held outdoors.

"The minister said schools would remain shut on that day. It's obvious that any activity organised on that day will be outdoors," a parent said.

The parents' concerns are echoed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which has also raised concerns about the Airtel Marathon which is slated for 19 November.

The IMA has written to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking him to cancel the marathon due to the high level of pollution.

On Tuesday, Kejriwal tweeted:

 

But despite the concerns showed by the government over air pollution, schools have been ordered to go ahead and gear up for Children's Day celebrations.

The Delhi education department oversees 925 schools and nearly 15 lakh students.

 

“We are ready to face any challenges,” said Shashi Kant Singh, prinicpal of a co-ed school in Dwarka. Singh said he is waiting for the government to issue guidelines which must be followed during the celebrations.

Education department sources told Firstpost that the department will also participate in the  India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan on 14 November, where smart class rooms will be exhibited in special stalls.

“Delhi education department has been participating in the trade fair for the past three years," the source added. "Three schools under the education department have been sending nearly 100 students."

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, individual stations in Delhi-NCR recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) as high as 446 at 9.30 am in 19 monitoring stations in NCR. This quality of air has been deemed 'severe' by the Graded Response Action Plan, which was prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board in accordance with the Supreme Court order issued on 2 December, 2016 in the matter of M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India.

On Tuesday, the EPCA called for a slew of measures to improve air quality, including quadrupling of parking fees in Delhi-NCR, lowering of Delhi Metro fares during off-peak hours for at least 10 days and introduction of more coaches.

Swaraj India, a political party led by professor Yogendra Yadav, has suggested a few more methods to curb pollution: Vacuuming larger roads, cleaning smaller roads and streets at night, sprinkling recycled water on unpaved roads and ensuring “zero dust” construction.

The party said the Delhi government should enforce complete ban on open waste burning of municipal solid waste, a step environment experts said can improve air quality as much as 15 percent.

 


Updated Date: Nov 07, 2017 21:27 PM

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