Delhi government’s odd-even number scheme comes to an end today. Like most policy decisions in this country these days, the scheme will be declared a success or a failure depending not necessarily on the ground realities but on the political affiliations of those pronouncing the judgement. But let us try and take an objective look at what the 15 day experiment achieved.
Were there less cars on the roads?
Yes, comparatively, but there were still too many cars around.
Were there as many traffic jams as there normally are?
An unequivocal NO!
Almost empty roads at Dhaula Kuan ring road during ‘odd-even’ rule in Delhi on Thusday
Was there lesser pollution? Well, the answer to this question is genuinely not easy because:
1. Vehicular pollution is, perhaps, not the main contributor in Delhi.
2. The number of vehicles is far too high, and add to that those that enter Delhi from the adjoining cities of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida, even with just an odd or even number, there are still far more than a city should have running on the roads at any time.
3. Most of the pollution meter still showed PM (particulate matter) levels way above permissible limits
4. Having said that, however, the very fact that thousands of vehicles were not stranded in long jams as they idled their engines, spewing toxic/noxious emissions in the air, means it is that much less pollution.
5. So, irrespective of what the pollution meters say, or even those who have decided that the move was a failure, the scheme would have had a positive impact. It may not be significant, but to say that it has had zilch impact is being mulish.
Should this move be made permanent?
Left to me, I would perhaps impose far stricter conditions than just the odd-even scheme, for we seem to take things for granted and always expect the other to do right so that my future is secure. However, there were several things that can be done to make it better, such as:
1. Despite having the best metro network in the country, the system is not able to cater to the scale of people who commute on a daily basis
Commuters at Rajiv Chowk metro station during ‘odd-even’ rule in Delhi
2. Increasing the number of buses is not easy because the road space is limited. Of course, you could say that the if more people shed cars for public transport, it automatically would leave more space for the buses. After all, the space occupied by a bus to transport X number of people is a fraction of what would be required if the same number were using private cars, and worse if they weren’t pooling.
3. Car-pooling obviously is a great idea and people must do it themselves. I am fine if they do it for economic reasons alone, because that too helps cut pollution. The administration should also incentivize those who car pool. If there are five people in a car, don’t penalize them. Be happy so many are going together. In fact, if car-pooling were to pick up, there would be no real need to implement this odd-even scheme. But for that to happen, there has to be an attitudinal change as well.
4. DO AWAY with so many exemptions. The more the exemptions, the more the chances of them being misused. Although it was heartening to see a big percentage of people following rules, the exemptions always leave room for misuse.
a. Most of the places that still saw jams during the past 15 days, it was where they were stopping cars for violation. The number of exemptions being so high, each had to be heard, then there were arguments, resulting in vehicles getting piled up.
Enhance fines, but their implementation should be monitored, for the general belief, as some say thumb-rule is, higher the fine, greater the bribe rate. Something I wrote about a few weeks ago in a post – Crooked enforcement won’t clean Delhi’s environment, your own will would
5. Promote electric cars, taxis. Reduce duties on such cars. Make it easier for citizens to buy/avail them. Give preference to such cars on roads. Incentivise their use by making parking free, charging points all over, etc.
What else to do to reduce pollution?
There is a lot that has been written about and is documented, but if I were to be asked what comes to my mind straight away, I would think of the following:
1. Promote Non-Motorised-Transport for short commutes. This is something that is so simple and easy. Far too many people use cars to commute short distances. They could easily switch to using public transport, or even bicycles. Sure, many find it unsafe, but that is something that the local administration has to work at
a. Why can’t there be dedicated bike lanes?
b. Of course, in this country, even where there are such lanes, they are taken up by cars and if there are shops on the roads, then they are used as parking for their customers.
2. So, build cycle tracks and ensure they are reserved for them alone. Once that is done, we could promote them using innovative schemes and concepts like what a few in Gurgaon and Noida do – #Pedal2WorkChallenge. It is like the #IceBucketChallenge of last year, where, anyone who undertook and completed it challenged five others. This, with cycling has resulted in at least 100 in Gurgaon’s IT hub take up the challenge in the past two months.
3. Set up bike stations which lets you pick up bikes from point A and drop it at Point B or C or D, for a small fee. For this scheme to succeed, though, the government would need to provide subsidies. Mind you, these subsidies would be far less than what you actually dole out for automobiles in one form or the other.
4. Ensure roads are well-maintained. So many places witness jams because a sudden poor stretch slows everyone. During peak hours, it can result in jams that can be a KM long
5. Ensure builders and contractors do not allow construction dust to fly around. They can keep the surroundings wet, or under cover. It is common knowledge that a significant portion of PM is due to construction related dust.
6. Ensure people drive sanely, follow rules. I have always wondered why we just can’t introspect and do it right ourselves. Poor driving etiquette results in so many avoidable situations. Of course, the authorities who dole out driving licenses to even a cow or a cat, need to be taken to task as well. Someone has to instill fear in them. Right now they think they are untouchable, as even those who have to prosecute them are involved.
7. Bolster public transport.
8. Do all that is mentioned above under “Should this move be made permanent?”
In the final analyses, Delhi government deserves credit for thinking of the scheme. If nothing else, it made all others sit up and take notice. The very fact that several other state/city administrations, across political spectrum, are willing to experiment with the scheme shows that all realise the importance of steps to control pollution. However, all of it would succeed only if we ourselves recognize the gravity of the situation and change ourselves. Governments can only do as much, we ourselves have to understand that for our own good, and for the good of our kids and future generations, we have to change. Endure some hardships, if needed, but unless we do so, we would make this planet, the only one we have, un-livable for ourselves.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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Delhi has kicked off a sweeping plan to reduce its record-high air pollution by limiting the numbers of cars on the streets for two weeks.
Here is all you need to know about the traffic rationing:
What: Restriction on cars. Those with registration numbers ending in odd digits will be allowed to ply on odd dates and those ending in even digits will run on even dates.
When: Between January 1 and January 15. Sundays are free for all
Timing: 8am to 8pm
Fine: On the spot challan Rs 2,000 but no impounding of vehicles
Why: To curb air pollution and road congestion on Delhi roads
Who is exempt
CNG and electric cars - CNG cars will have to get a hologram sticker from IGL pumping stations and display them prominently on their cars’ windshields.
Two-wheelers – Have been kept out as the government doesn’t have the requisite public transport facilities to become a viable alternative.
Women - Cars driven by women and cars that only have women occupants. Cars driven by women where the male companion is below 12.
Vehicles being used for medical emergencies (trust based)
Vehicles occupied/driven by people with disabilities
Vehicles of: VVIP cars, emergency services and enforcement vehicles
President; Vice-president; Prime Minister; Governors; Chief Justice; Speaker of Lok Sabha; Union ministers; Leaders of Opposition (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha); Chief ministers of states and union territories (except those in Delhi); Supreme Court judges; Deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha; Deputy speaker Lok Sabha; Lieutenant governors of Union Territories; Delhi High Court judges; Lokayukta
Emergency vehicles: Ambulances, fire brigade trucks, hospital, prison, hearse van
Enforcement vehicles: Police, Delhi transport department, authorised by Delhi Divisional Commissioner, paramilitary forces
Vehicles with ministry of defence number plates
Vehicles with a pilot/escort
Vehicles of SPG protectees
Embassy vehicles with CD numbers
Who has to follow
All petrol and diesel vehicles
Cars from outside Delhi: All diesel and petrol cars, irrespective of where they are coming from, will have to follow the rules.
Diesel and petrol taxis: Most of these are attached to taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber and will have to follow the odd-even rule till they convert to CNG vehicles.
Delhi chief minister, Delhi’s ministers and MLAs
Public transport readiness
What to depend on during drive:
Buses: 10,000 (4,500 DTC bus, 1,500 cluster bus and around 4,000 to be hired by DTC for the drive)
Taxies: 79,600 (15,000 kali-peeli and rest private cabs)
Total metro stations: 143 stations
Metros to run at higher frequency through the day
Last mile connectivity by feeder buses, e-rickshaws
People travelling in Metro every day: 2.6 million
Blue Line | Dwarka-Vaishali/Noida (476 coaches)
Yellow Line | Jahangirpuri-HUDA City Centre (426 coaches)
Red Line | Rithala-Dilshad Garden (136 coaches)
Purple Line | ITO-Faridabad (128 coaches)
Green Line | Inderlok-Mundka (74 coaches)
Airport Line | New Delhi Railway Station-Dwarka Sector-21
Daily passengers: 3.5 million
Number of autos: 70,000
Number of kaali-peeli taxis: 15,000
Number of cabs: 70,000
How Delhi goes to work
Commuters: 5.33 million
Using public transport: 27%
Using pvt transport: 25%
On foot/Bicycle: 31%
Other modes of transport include local trains
(Source: Census 2011)