Delhi air pollution: Not in favour of WFH, employees advised to carpool, Centre to SC

The apex court asked the Centre about drastic steps which are scientifically proven and are taken to bring down pollution

New Delhi: The Central government on Wednesday expressed its unwillingness before the Supreme Court to ask its employees to work from home and instead it has advised its employees in the national capital to resort to carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles used by them for commuting.

The Centre through an affidavit told the Apex Court that the number of vehicles used by the Central government is a minuscule fraction of the total vehicles in the national capital and stopping their plying would not make much impact towards improving the air quality of Delhi.

The Centre in its affidavit point outs directives issued by the Commission for air quality management for Delhi-NCR and adjoining areas that included a ban on entry of trucks in Delhi till November 21 except trucks carrying essential commodities, closure of thermal plants, ban on construction and demolition activities, deployed anti-smog guns and water sprinklers etc.

The Central Government has also considered the possibility of functioning under online mode i.e. "work from home".

In this regard, it is submitted that in the recent past, several governmental functions were impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic for substantially a long period of time which entailed pan India ramifications.
The Central Government thus considered the number of vehicles used for Central Government business in NCR and after finding that the said number is was not very significant, the Central Government decided that in view of the recent normalization of the functioning of Central Government offices post COVID-19 pandemic, the advantage of not passing work from home direction would outweigh the advantages which would be gained from work from home directions which would be limited to only less number of Central Government vehicles on road.

Instead, the Department of Personnel and Training Government of India has issued an advisory for Central Government officers and staff for pooling and sharing of vehicles to the maximum extent possible so that number of Central Government vehicles plying for commuting of officers and staff are reduced substantially.

Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court directed the Central government to call for an "emergency meeting" on November 16 with Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh and sought an action plan to curb the air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
The apex court asked the Centre about drastic steps which are scientifically proven and are taken to bring down pollution.

As per Centre's affidavit, 75 per cent of the pollution according to scientific study is due to industries, heavy vehicular traffic and dust, thus it's not stubble burning and these three factors have to be reduced, observed the Bench.

Meanwhile, Delhi's Air quality continues to be in the 'very poor' category for the fourth consecutive day today, as per the System of Air Quality & Weather Forecasting & Research (SAFAR).

However, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) reduced from 396 from Tuesday to 379 today.

The Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining Areas (CAQM) on Tuesday also issued directions like a ban on construction work, shutting of public schools, work from home, among other measures to control air pollution in the region.

The commission has also directed five states to submit a compliance report before November 22 to the commission and directions will be closely monitored by Chief Secretary of NCR states, GNCTD on a regular basis, said the official release.

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