Children's Day Celebrations: Toxic Air Shuts Schools but Delhi Kids Run Marathon

Even as the national capital continued to choke under a pall of thick smog, children in Delhi were made to run a marathon to celebrate Children's Day.

The appalling incident came to light in the grey morning of November 14, when Air Quality Index continued to remain over 500 in at least five neighbourhoods in the city. The marathon, called 'Run for Children' was organised by a city-based, non-governmental organisation 'Prayas'.

Delhi: A 'Run for Children' was flagged off in the national capital earlier this morning.

— ANI (@ANI) November 14, 2019

Photos from the run show hundreds of children running on Vinay Marg in Chanakyapuri, news agency ANI reported. Founded by former Delhi DCP Amod K Kanth, Prayas is a three decades old NGO that works for the development of juveniles in several states. The run was flagged off by former Miss India and actor Simran Kaur Mundi.

Pictures from the event reveal banners that have the Life Insurance Corporation logo on them, pointing to a possible collaboration.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court-mandated anti-pollution authority EPCA on Wednesday ordered closure of schools in Delhi-NCR for the next two days as pollution in the region hovered close to emergency levels. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also advised people to avoid outdoor exposure and work from home. As the images went viral on social media, netizens called out the hypocrisy and absurdity of making children run at a time when schools are shut due to pollution and people have been advised to stay indoors. Many wondered why such a potentially harmful activity was planned to celebrate the birth anniversary of Jawarharlal Nehru.

In this pollution? Are they crazy?

— Indrani Bagchi (@horror06) November 14, 2019

On one hand schools are closed due to pollution, on the other hand this. Who's the organiser?

— Rohit Agarwal (@ragarwal) November 14, 2019

If it's a #RunForChildren then politicians should be made to run in horrible pollution of Delhi. Why are kids running for kids !!! That too when it was declared holiday for children due to pollution. @AamAadmiParty

— Aarti Thakur (@aartithakurjha) November 14, 2019

Earlier in the month, the Delhi government had released a health advisory to help citizens cope with the pollution. Health minister Satyender Jain had asked people to avoid the outdoors as much as possible.

To bring out children at a time when PM 2.5 levels were as high as 322 and PM 10 levels at 487 (at 8.30 am on Thursday) is nothing short of a violation.

However, this is not the first marathon to honour the birth of former political leaders this smog season.

On October 31, when AQI in Delhi was "severe", children and adults alike were made to 'Run for Unity' to celebrate Rashtriya Ekta Diwas. Union ministers like Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal were part of such events held in the national capital to celebrate the 144th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

Responding to the controversy, Prayas General Secretary Amod Kanth called the run "symbolic" and that as a result of air pollution, the NGO had cut the run short.

"It was symbolic run. Real program is children's day cultural event for which children were preparing for months. We didn’t know about this emergency(air quality) till yesterday," Kanth told ANI.