Nitin Dimri was surprised when he reached the parking lot of his apartment building. It was early morning on January 4, Monday, and the entire space was chock-a-block with vehicles — all odd-numbered. It was the day when only even-numbered vehicles were to ply on the capital&’s roads.
“I realised that the odd-even scheme will be a success. The entire anxiety whether it will be feasible on a day when office-goers get back to work was gone in a minute,” said Dimri, a resident of Mayur Vihar Phase 3. “And it inspired me to follow the scheme. I took the Metro to reach my office in Gurgaon. My travel time got reduced from 120 minutes to 75 minutes,” added the marketing executive whose schedule demands that he visits the clients across the city.
Most of the residents are adhering to the rule that aims at curbing air pollution. The compliance has been over 80 per cent, according to Delhi government sources. It has boosted the confidence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government which is claiming that the level of vehicular pollution has gone down.
Special Commissioner (traffic) Muktesh Chander said that people of the city are following the scheme. Be it the wish to contribute to this fight against pollution or the fear of being fined Rs.2,000 in case of violation, the ground reality is encouraging. Unlike several other traffic rules that are being flouted, the odd-even scheme has seen lesser violations than expected, he said.
But what if this scheme gets extended beyond January 15? With Delhi Traffic Police facing staff crunch, how feasible would be the odd-even scheme then? Chander sounded optimistic. “Even if the scheme becomes part of the Motor Vehicles Act, we would be able to manage if compliance is 80 per cent. The rest 20 per cent violation is manageable,” he told thestatesman.com. However, if the violation is 80 per cent then it could be tough task for the traffic police, he clarified. “I don’t know how people would respond if this scheme is extended for a year,” Chander said. “Our role is to implement the rule. So far about 2,500 challans have been issued by the traffic police,” he added.
Away from scepticism, Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai thanked the people of the capital for making the odd-even scheme a success. “It was like a mission impossible. But the way people have responded is phenomenal. The government hopes that the people will extend their support in making the city pollution-free,” Rai told thestatesman.com
While the Delhi High Court asked whether the scheme could be restricted just for a week, it later refused to intervene. The city government too decided not to extend the odd-even scheme.
“The scheme shall remain operational till January 15. Several organisations have asked us to extend the scheme. But we shall decide after reviewing this trial period between January 1 and 15,” Rai added.
In the first phase, there have been several exemptions to the odd-even scheme. In case the government decides to implement the scheme in future, should it also include the two-wheelers? Should women continue to be exempted?
City resident Nihal Singh, whose workplace is located in Connaught Place, said: “Motorbike is not a rich man&’s vehicle. So it should not be included in the odd-even scheme. Moreover, the government must improve the public transport. However, odd-even scheme cannot be a long-term solution.”
Similar view was echoed by Priyanka Sharma, an engineer. “I have no problem if the government doesn’t exempt women from the scheme. But the public transport must become better”.
Sharma, who travels from Karkardooma to Okhla every day, added: “The government must fulfill its promise of installing CCTV cameras in all DTC buses. Homeguards should also be deployed.”
But has the odd-even scheme reduced air pollution in Delhi? The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority said the peak level of pollution in the capital has come down to the its “lowest”.
The state government also claimed that the air quality in the city has improved considerably. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which collects samples from 18 locations across the city, said PM 2.5 and PM 10 saw an average reduction of 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
So it appears that the scheme has been effective to some extent, if not in reducing air pollution, but at least in making people aware about the menace. And that&’s what the Arvind Kejriwal government is banking on — the public awareness about the need for such stringent measures that may be the best way forward.