Schools in Delhi-NCR shut, 50% office staff to work from home

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.

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.

NCR states and Delhi have also been directed to stop the entry of trucks to the national capital, except for those carrying essential commodities. This is also till November 21 and is subject to further review.

Petrol and diesel vehicles older than 15 and 10 years, respectively, will not be allowed on the roads. Drivers of vehicles found without a valid emission control certificate will be hauled up, the order said.

The CAQM order comes as the Delhi government and the centre face uncomfortable questions from the Supreme Court over the lack of emergency planning for, and response to, the air quality crisis.

Yesterday the Delhi government suggested a weekend lockdown and WFH for a week at an emergency meet ordered by the top court; the meeting was also attended by officials from the centre.

The Delhi government also recommended a pause for construction and industrial activities in the city.

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