NEW DELHI: As a step towards easing traffic during the Commonwealth Games in October, the Delhi government has decided to give schools — both government and private — a 17-day autumn break this year. To compensate for the loss of working days, the summer break will be shortened to 49 days instead of the usual 61.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting of the Delhi government after a recently released report by the National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB) said commuting to and fro from schools and colleges constitutes the second highest transport volume on city roads. An advisory on this has been sent to schools. There are also unconfirmed inputs that college timings could also be altered during the Games and even big corporate houses may be approached to keep flexible timings during the Games.
Chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Monday said that the decision had been taken to “overcome traffic congestion” during the Games and ensure “smooth hosting” of the mega sporting event. “It has been decided to extend the autumn break from eight to 17 days while the summer vacation have been reduced,” Dikshit said. The autumn break will be from October 1 to October 17. The capital will host the Games from October 3 to 14th of the month. Schools will open after Dussehra/Vijaydashami, which falls on October 17.
The government maintained that the rescheduling of the breaks will not affect the academic calender of schools as working days in 2010-11 would be 218 compared to 215 in the previous year.
This single move could mean withdrawal of a huge fleet of school buses as well as private vehicles which ferry school children. The traffic police have prepared a plan to dedicate one lane each on both carriageways of roads leading to Games venues for participating sportspersons and foreign delegates. According to estimates, this plan involves a total road stretch of 230km and could lead to major congestion in the remaining road space. Transport planners and traffic management experts feel that unless stringent steps are taken to prevent a major chunk of Delhi’s private vehicles from taking to the roads during the Games, the situation would get unmanageable for traffic handlers.
Meanwhile, schools have mostly welcomed the longer autumn break though it is only an advisory for private unaided schools. D K Bedi, principal, Apeejay School at Pitampura, said, “Though we will have to reschedule the school calendar, the students will certainly love to go and watch the Commonwealth Games or see the contests live on television. We will curtail the summer vacations. Since we have several months to go, we will manage the schedule.”
Closing down schools during the Games would serve two purposes. One, it would decongest traffic to an extent and, two, the DTC buses hired by schools will be free for use by visitors during that time. “We use DTC as well as private buses as a mode of transport for children. All these buses can also be used for the Games if the schools remain closed. We have already received an advisory from the directorate of education on this. Let's see how we do it,” said Vandana Puri, principal, Salwan Public School (morning), Rajinder Nagar.