The central government is not in favour of work-from-home for its employees, the Supreme Court was told today amid an escalating air quality crisis in Delhi and nearby cities, underling that it will "not be (of) much benefit and effect".
In its affidavit, the government said,"... In the recent past, several governmental functions were impacted due to COVID-19 pandemic for substantially a long period of time which entailed pan India ramifications." The centre, however, said it has "issued an advisory on carpooling" for its employees.
In the last hearing on Monday, the Supreme Court had asked the centre and states to consider work-from-home for at least a week. Pollution due to factories, transportation, dust, and some part of stubble burning, are the major contributing factors, the top court had stressed.
"On work-from-home for central government employees, we have said that work has already suffered due to Covid. The number of central government vehicles in Delhi-NCR is not too high. There are more cons than pros when it comes to WFH... it will have a limited impact. We have advised carpooling," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court today.
To this Chief Justice NV Ramana asked,"Do you have an exact number of central government employees?"
"We don't have an exact number. But it would be negligible. It would be lesser than other vehicles. Any order here will have all India ramifications," Mr Mehta told the court.
The court has been nudging the authorities to take urgent steps as several states in north India remain wrapped in toxic air.
Today, the Supreme Court was also told by the Punjab government, which had come under flak over the issue of stubble-burning, that it would need financial assistance from the centre.
"All possible steps are being taken to control stubble burning but we're facing financial limitations. We need financial assistance from the centre to control stubble burning. We have been asking to provide cost compensation of Rs 100 per quintal to the farmers over and above MSP to control stubble burning but to no avail," the court was told.
Last night, the Commission for Air Quality Management said all schools and colleges in Delhi and nearby cities should be closed till further notice. The direction - one of many - came as the national capital region as it battles a toxic smog that has blanketed the city since Diwali.
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.