The Supreme Court today pulled up the Delhi government for its "lethargic" response on pollution from fire crackers and said the steps taken so far by it were limited to issuing directions which was "merely paperwork".
The court, which lifted "for the time being" its earlier order suspending permanent licences for sale of fire crackers in the national capital region, said no specific action plan has been laid down by Delhi government to make children aware of the hazards of bursting crackers.
"Have the steps already taken by the concerned authorities reduced air pollution during Diwali? It seems to us that the steps so far taken by Government of NCT of Delhi are limited to issuing directions, which is merely paperwork," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
It observed that only general directions were issued in the past to schools to sensitise the students and staff about the ill-effects and health hazards of bursting fireworks.
"No specific plan of action has been laid down by the Government of NCT of Delhi to make children aware of the hazards of bursting fireworks and the existing awareness campaigns have been allowed to drift over the last one year," it said, adding "there is no information on the success or failure of these campaigns".
The bench noted that the Delhi government's response was "lethargic with the absence of any keenness to take proactive steps".
"This is disconcerting. It is high time that governmental authorities realise that the cost of ill health (particularly among children) is far greater in psycho-social terms than in financial and economic terms. The adage that 'prevention is better than cure' is fully applicable in the present circumstances," it said.
The bench also noted that there was no response from the states within the NCR, which gave the impression that air pollution was not a problem for them despite the ill-effects and health hazards of bursting fireworks.
"There must be a concerted effort by the powers that be to ensure awareness and sensitisation of the people in Delhi and NCR, particularly children, of the health hazards of indiscriminate use of fireworks," it said.
The top court said that unless urgent steps are taken, there could be an adverse impact on children's health and it would be to "nobody's benefit but to everybody's detriment".
Referring to the dangerous levels of air pollution in Delhi after Diwali last year, the bench said persons living in Delhi during that time would have experienced choking effects of breathing in polluted air and tremendous increase in the use and sale of face masks and air purifiers.
"In the absence of any concerted plan of action implemented by the governmental authorities, the residents responded in an ad-hoc manner by purchasing face masks and air purifiers. There is no doubt that an effective and longer lasting solution is necessary," the bench said.
It also observed that there was no doubt that residents of the NCR were entitled to breathe unpolluted air and protection of their health from the adverse consequences of breathing in polluted air caused by bursting of fireworks.
The Delhi government, in its affidavit filed in the apex court, had said that school children were being informed about the hazards of indiscriminate bursting of fireworks and there were 'anti-fire crackers' campaigns also.