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An NGO in Delhi Made Kids Run Without Masks Despite Severe Air Pollution

Even as schools in the capital remain shut due to the drastic spike in pollution levels and residents advised to avoid outdoor activities, an event called ‘Run for Children’ took place.
SJ
Mumbai, India
November 15, 2019, 8:36am
Delhi pollution severe air quality
Tourists cross a road to visit the India Gate under heavy smog conditions, in New Delhi on November 3, 2019. Photo: Sajjad Hussain / AFP

Given that Delhi is facing an air pollution crisis so severe that a thick toxic smog has enveloped the city and authorities are rationing cars on the road, shutting down schools and trying to curb all activity that contributes to the pollution, running away from India’s capital city seems like a pretty good idea. But instead, on November 14—a day widely celebrated as Children’s Day across India—an NGO called Prayas held an event where they made kids run on the streets of Delhi.

Despite the warnings issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) advising everyone to avoid all outdoor activities, especially in the mornings and especially for children, a big group of kids could be seen running through the hazardous haze on Vinay Marg in Chanakyapuri.

Meanwhile, Amod Kanth, a former DGP and Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights who now runs Prayas, an NGO that works towards creating opportunities for marginalised sections of society, told ANI, “It was symbolic run. The real program is a Children's Day cultural event for which children were preparing for months. We didn’t know about this emergency till yesterday," claiming that they cut the run short after seeing the situation. The same organiser also told The New Indian Express that this event was important as it was done to benefit underprivileged children, saying, “This day is like Republic Day or Independence Day for these children. It holds a lot of importance for children, who have been forced into labour or are homeless. They practise for a month for this run and look forward to it with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.”

But no matter the intent, unless you’re asking for illnesses, it’s probably not wise to make impressionable young children, who may not even be aware of how bad the situation is, run out in the open after explicitly being warned not to do so. Especially if they aren’t even being given anti-pollution masks. And the aftermath has already started, with some parents of the participating children opening up about how they regret sending their kids. “Children are falling ill due to toxic air,” a parent named Payal told ANI. “Some of the participants have also missed the marathon due to pollution today. One boy while running puked and is now taking rest.”

And the worst part? This isn’t even the first time this year such an outrageous event has happened amidst an air crisis. On October 31, even as the AQI in Delhi touched "severe", children and adults were made to 'Run for Unity' to celebrate Rashtriya Ekta Diwas in an event that was even attended by Union ministers like Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal. We’ve heard of people running for their lives, but blatantly doing so even after the effects of the severely damaging air pollution are so visible (or rather, not-so-visible given that the smog covers up most things), this just seems straight-up stupid.

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