The share of burning farm waste led to a fiery exchange in the Supreme Court on Wednesday as it resumed a hearing on the Delhi air pollution crisis after two days. While annual studies have pegged the contribution of stubble burning in neighbouring states between 4-10%, at the peak of Delhi’s pollution season, this number has been found to be as high as nearly 50%.
On Monday, the court had directed the Delhi government and central officials to hold an emergency meeting over the pollution and list out the steps that can be taken. The centre and states should consider work-from-home for their employees in and around Delhi, Supreme Court said.
Following the meeting, the Commission for Air Quality Management late Tuesday night said all schools and colleges in Delhi and nearby cities should be closed till further notice. Educational institutions will, therefore, likely return to online classes as held during the Covid lockdown.
A nine-page order issued by the CAQM also advised NCR state governments (Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) to allow at least 50 per cent of staff to work from home till November 21.
Private firms in Delhi NCR must also be “encouraged” to allow at least 50 per cent of their staff to work from home, the order by the CAQM (a subcommittee of the Central Pollution Control Board) said.
The government offices in the city have been directed and the private ones have been advised to let half of their staff work from home.
Here are the Live Updates On Delhi Air Pollution:
Justice DY Chandrachud: We have one suggestion. You have said that its possible to close down non-essential industries. But only when others in NCR also do it.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: It has to be holistic approach. We have switched to WFH, but what is the point if vehicles coming from elsewhere
Justice DY Chandrachud: Can you not increase CNG buses. So that people switch to those instead of private vehicles. Hire more such buses
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: Can check on that even if it can be implemented in the medium term. Might not be possible immediately
Justice DY Chandrachud: Take positive steps in next 2 days. For short term impact
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: MCD has to tell how many more needed. We are ready to give full financial support
Justice DY Chandrachud: Again putting it on MCD
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: Purchase order placed for 15 more
CJI NV Ramana: Again the issue that MCD is not under you
Abhishek Manu Singhvi for Delhi Govt: I can’t run the issue of sweeping. That is run by MCD
CJI NV Ramana: Enough is enough. We are not going into any figures now. How many machines required etc
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: Our affidavit on 13 November states our measures on construction and road dust measures
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: The affidavit that SG has filed…90% of those steps have been taken by Delhi Govt. Other states are little behind and they will catch up
Justice DY Chandrachud: We had mentioned last time the issue of only 69 mechanised road sweeping machines…any new purchase
CJI NV Ramana: You keep quoting PUSA research study but there are already reports saying that method to manage stubble is a failure
Justice DY Chandrachud to Delhi Government: What have you already done and what do you propose to do?
Justice Surya Kant: Irrespective of figures in affidavits the plight of the farmers…what compels him to burn stubble…nobody is concerned abt that. People sleeping in five star hotels in Delhi blame farmers. Look at such small land holdings of farmers. Can they afford the machines you all talk about?
CJI reading out from his phone now:
A reasearch paper by IIT says that only certain percentage contributes to stubble burning pollution
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: That must be old study. We are conducting an ongoing study
CJI NV Ramana: You banned firecrackers. But can you deny that in last 5-6 days so many firecrackers have been burst. What about those sources of pollution?
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: I don’t deny that firecrackers cause pollution
Justice Surya Kant: Every year in October and November Supreme Court is compelled to take steps when Delhi starts choking
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: Forget the politics or month it is our duty to tell you that stubble burning is a cause
CJI NV Ramana: You all saying different figures. We do not want to penalise the farmers. We already asked Centre to pursue and request those farmers to not burn stubble at least for a week
CJI NV Ramana: If you keep raising these other things like that then main issue will not get resolved
CJI NV Ramana: Debates on TV are causing more pollution than any other sources. Everyone has their own agenda there. We are trying to work out a solution here
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: These figures would be higher in November so they should not be ignored. Source based pollution study is yet to be completed. Delhi Government has commissioned it and its being done by IIT
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: We are not here to blame farmers either
Abhishek Manu Singhvi for Delhi Government
SAFAR study on stubble burning…is about to quote figures when CJI intervenes
CJI NV Ramana: If you see today’s newspaper each paper has its own statistics
Abhishek Manu Singhvi: It varies from 0 to 58% based on which month we are talking abt. SG may have taken a 4 month or 6 month average
CJI NV Ramana: Our focus is to reduce pollution. You are all raising an issue repeatedly that is not relevant.
CJI NV Ramana: Do you have number of Central govt employees?
SG Tushar Mehta: Don’t have exact number. But it would be negligible. It would be lesser than other vehicles. Any order here will have all India ramifications.
CJI NV Ramana: All adjoining states like Punjab, Haryana and UP are also under these measures?
SG Tushar Mehta: Yes
SG Tushar Mehta: On WFH for Central govt employees we have said that work has already suffered due to Covid. Central govt vehicles number in Delhi-NCR is not too high. There are more cons than pros when it comes to WFH. WFH will have limited impact. We have advised car pooling.
Vikas Singh for petitioner: SG Tushar Mehta did tell the Court orally that it was 10%. So I told court that instead its 35-40%.
SG Tushar Mehta: Chief Secretaries of all states had a meeting. We have decided:
- To take steps on industries that run on unapproved fuels
- Effective enforcement measures shall be taken
CJI NV Ramana: These figures are not important for us. Unless the parties in the case are trying to divert the issue. We are concerned with lowering pollution.
CJI NV Ramana: Its a matter of common sense
SG Tushar Mehta: But there are those who are not using common sense
SG Tushar Mehta explains contribution of stubble burning:
- We had said in our affidavit that some factors like stubble burning contribute more after Oct to pollution. Its not throughout the year.
- We then stated that it increases in those two months. And its about 35-40%.
- But it was projected that we said that the contribution is only 4-7% because of Punjab elections
SG Tushar Mehta: We heard some nasty utterances on TV media about me that I misled the court by saying stubble is only contributing 4-7%
Justice DY Chandrachud: When I said 4% Mr Vikas Singh did point out that it was 35%-40%
CJI NV Ramana: When you hold public office you are bound to get such criticism. When conscious is clear there is no issue. Forget it.
Hearing on Delhi-NCR pollution begins
Punjab Government files its response in Supreme Court, says need financial assistance from Centre on stubble burning
- Taking all possible steps to control stubble burning but facing financial limitations
- Need financial assistance from Centre to control stubble burning
- Have been asking the Centre to provide cost compensation of ₹100/quintal to the farmers over & above MSP to control Stubble Burning but to no avail
Centre not in favour of WFH for its employees, files affidavit in Supreme Court.
- Work already affected earlier due to Covid
- Work from home will not be of much benefit and effect
- Centre says it has issued an advisory to its employees on car-pooling
Just In| Not in favour of work-from-home for employees, won’t be of much benefit, centre tells Supreme Court
- All schools and colleges in Delhi and nearby cities should be closed till further notice, the Commission for Air Quality Management said late Tuesday night. The direction – one of many – comes as the national capital region as it battles a toxic smog that has blanketed the city since Diwali.
- Educational institutions will, therefore, likely return to online classes as held during the Covid lockdown.
- A nine-page order issued by the CAQM also advised NCR state governments (Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) to allow at least 50 per cent of staff to work from home till November 21.
- Private firms in Delhi NCR must also be “encouraged” to allow at least 50 per cent of their staff to work from home, the order by the CAQM (a subcommittee of the Central Pollution Control Board) said.
- Apart from WFH instructions and the closure of presential classes for schools and colleges, the order also calls for “heavy penalty on persons/organisations responsible for stacking construction materials… or waste on roads in NCR” and “augment availability of road-sweeping machines in NCR”.
- Construction activities and demolition projects across Delhi NCR have been stopped till November 21 as well, with exceptions made for railway services/stations, Metro operations, airports and bus terminals, as well as national security or defence-related activities and projects.
- Importantly, only five of 11 thermal power plants in Delhi NCR will be operative.