Conveyance to create extra inconvenience

The Delhiites will start their new year with a little change in their driving habits, owing to the Aam Aadmi Party government’s radical odd-even formula to curb pollution, coming in force from January 1.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest with the plan as almost everyone in the city is reacting to it. Since it has been announced, the decision has received criticism and praise alike from multiple stakeholders; be it college-going students or office-goers.

“I think this is a good idea. Since past some years we have been reading about pollution in Delhi and someone needs to do something. I am amazed at what the public is crying foul for. Everyone talks about how polluted Delhi is and wants change but no one wants to inconvenience themselves,” said Anant Johri, a manager with a consultancy based in South Delhi.

Manni Kumar, who works in TCS in Gurgaon and travels from Ghaziabad daily, says that it will be “a hell of a task” to cover the distance by public transport. However, he agrees that it is a much-needed step in these “desperate times”.

“I use my car to travel to office as a necessity and not a luxury because the public transport system and last mile connectivity is very poor,” he says and goes on to explain that from January 1, on alternate days, he will have to take an auto from home to the nearest metro station, which is Vaishali, and then change the train at Rajiv Chowk for Gurgaon. He will have to take an auto again from Huda City Metro Station to reach his office.

“It’s a long route and there is no direct metro or any other transport. But, these days even a lay man is talking about pollution and respiratory diseases due to it. These are desperate measures in desperate times. So I think Delhi should respond to it positively,” he says.

Praveen Agarwal, who resides in New Rajender Nagar says that it has been long that he has driven his car with the window pane down in Delhi due to its toxic air.

“It’s not that it is being tried the first time in the world. I am not a Kejriwal supporter but why do we need to criticise everything the government does. It is an experiment and we should support it,” he says.

However, his 21-year-old son Sahib disagrees and explains how the plan is bound to “fail”.

“Do you think people in Delhi don’t have money to buy two cars or pay the challan? Instead of decreasing pollution, this will in fact lead to more corruption as people, who can afford paying the fine will take their cars out daily,” Sahib argues.

The concerns raised by Sahib are valid as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already conceded that screening vehicles for odd-even violations will be a difficult task and that it can’t be implemented forcibly.

While both the government and the police agree that imposing fines during peak hours will be difficult as it would lead to jams, the authorities are also worried over people resorting to using fake number plates to be able to drive their cars daily. 

Since the announcement of the scheme, there have been reports of a spurt in the sale of fake number plates.

When asked, a worker in shop selling car accessories in West Delhi’s Moti Nagar area confesses that since past two weeks a lot of queries about number plates are coming in.

“Those with even-numbered vehicles ask for an odd last digit and vice versa,” he says.

Sumant Vadhwa, a sales manager for Honda, says that the showroom had received many requests for new cars during the first few days in December when there was confusion regarding the number of days the odd-even plan will be implemented.

“The requests were with specific registration numbers,” he says.

R K Malik, a resident of Janakpuri, who has a Swift currently, says that, when the scheme was announced, he had thought of buying a Nano or Alto with a different number plate.
“But now it is clear that it is only for 15 days. So, it’s a relief,” Malik says.

Publicity stunt
While most have supported the government’s move, there is a section which has termed it as a “publicity stunt”. Some said that this has been done to cause inconvenience to public, while others raised genuine problems.

“I leave my home for work at 12 pm and get done by 10:30-11. On the day when I cannot ply my car, how am I supposed to get back home? Though the rule is till 8 pm, but since I won’t be allowed to bring my car in the morning, what’s the point of this rule,” asks 27-year-old Romil Dev, a resident of South Delhi and working in a software firm in Gurgaon.

“There are five cars which go with a minister’s cavalcade. They could have done something to reduce it as an urgent measure. Why trouble the public. This is just a publicity stunt as the government has still not announced any long-term measures like subsidy to buy electric cars or encourage bicycles. What after January 15,” asks Niharika Singh.

With the public divided over whether the move is “good” or “bad”, no one has actually denied that the rising pollution in the capital needs to be tackled with.

The Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) which has welcomed the move has raised apprehensions over the exemptions given to various sections during the fifteen day trial.

“The range of exemptions granted –most notably the two-wheelers and single women driven cars can compromise the overall effectiveness of the programme,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhary, Executive Director of CSE.

According to CSE estimates, two-wheelers, because of their staggering numbers, contribute as much as 31 per cent of the total particulate load from vehicles.

“If this segment is left out and a sizeable number of cars are also allowed because of the exemption granted to single women drivers, the overall effectiveness of the programme will be compromised. It cannot act as an emergency measure to bring down the peak pollution level,” she said.

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