Delhi is all set for an encore of the controversial odd-even car rule to be implemented between 15 and 30 April this year.
Confirming to the media on 11 February, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal announced that based on feedback received from citizens of Delhi and the fact that high level of pollution was still a matter of grave concern, the scheme was to be introduced once again as an extension of the trial to the earlier one, which was implemented between 1-15 January 2016.
Method to be Followed
Cars, with last digit being ‘odd’ number, will run on 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, and 29 April, while ‘even’ number cars will run on 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 April. The rule will be enforced between 0800 hours and 2000 hours daily, Monday through Saturday. Sundays will be open to all. The scheme will also apply on cars entering Delhi from outside.
As per CM Kejriwal, the decision to repeat the scheme was taken after 276 Mohalla Sabhas held across Delhi deliberated on the merits and over 81% people in all Mohall Sabhas, except Vishwas Nagar, were in favour of the scheme being re-introduced. It was this support from citizens of Delhi that encouraged the Delhi government to go ahead with the second phase of the odd-even car scheme.
New buses to run on 346 routes during Odd-Even Phase 2
With an aim to facilitate public transport during the second phase of the car-rationing scheme, the Delhi government has planned to ply additional buses on 346 routes. Currently, the DTC is operating its buses on 555 routes across Delhi. The Transport Minister had announced the decision to create three special routes for the smooth functioning of the Odd-Even car-rationing scheme; these routes include Noida Sector-62 to Dhaula Kuan via AIIMA, Karol Bagh to Gurgaon ISBT via Dhaula Kuan and Uttam Nagar to Gurgaon via Dwarka.
Additionally, the Delhi government has also made nine points on Delhi’s Ring Roads on which DTC will be starting 16 special-route shuttle buses that will connect bordering areas of Delhi. The 16 routes include Azadpur Terminal-Singhu Border, Wazirpur Depot-Qutab Garh, Raja Garden-Najafgarh, Mandi House-New Seema Puri, Mori Gate-Bhajanpura, Mori Gate-Anand Vihar, GTB Nagar-Nathu Pura and Najafgarh-Kapashera.
The CM clarified that as earlier, women and two-wheelers would remain exempted from the scheme as Delhi has around 30 lakh two wheelers and if included, the present public transportation infrastructure was simply inadequate to handle the additional load. Delhi Metro, will however, be running additional trains to cope with the expected increase in commuters.
Other exceptions included ambulances, taxis and autos. Embassies, too, have been exempted. However, it is encouraging to see the US Embassy announce that it will fully cooperate and support the scheme. Cars that run on CNG will be allowed to run on all days but will have to get a car sticker from IGL.
Despite people’s opposition, the VIP cars are to remain exempted from the scheme. The CM clarified that the state government would appeal to the VIPs to cooperate but would not make it mandatory.
According to the revised guidelines, women drivers and vehicles carrying students in school uniform will remain exempted from the rule. Also, Chief Ministers from other states will be exempted from the norms laid down for the second phase of odd-even traffic policy. The following will also be exempted from the odd-even vehicle rationing rule:
1. SPG (Special Protection Group) protectees
2. Emergency services vehicles including fire engines, ambulances, and those belonging to prisons, hospitals, hearses and law enforcement vehicles
3. Vehicles with Defence Ministry number plates
4. Pilot cars
Arvind Kejriwal has also introduced a new helpline number -011-422400400 which can be used by the citizens of Delhi for clarifying their doubts related to the odd-even traffic scheme.
Additionally, the CM has also pointed out that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) will be gauging the overall impact of second phase of the odd-even policy on Delhi’s air quality at 119 different locations across the national capital.
Ex-servicemen to Help Police enforce the Rule
People would remember that SDMs were roped in to enforce the scheme during the first phase that was implemented between 1-15 January this year. Since their official work suffered and common citizens were affected, this time around, they have been exempted from this duty and instead, 500 ex-servicemen will be drafted to support Delhi Police in enforcing the rule. Violators will have to pay Rs 2,000 as fine.
The CM appealed to people to cooperate as they will face inconvenience for only six working days in April, since the scheme will run Mon through Sat, for two weeks only.
Did the earlier odd-even rule reduce pollution?
There have been varied opinion on the level of reduction in pollution, although all are in agreement that there was a definitive drop in pollution and SPM levels during the January phase.
According to a study conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the January experiment resulted in only 3-4% reduction in pollution levels. However, there was a drop in traffic by 19%, as per survey conducted by Central Road Research Institute (CRRI). Given the chaotic traffic conditions, especially during peak hours, this came as a welcome relief to an overburdened traffic police.
According to CSE, pollution levels, which had gone down during the earlier scheme, returned back to same levels, post scheme. This pointed to a need for a long-term and permanent solution to address the problem.
Delhi Transport Department (DTC) surprised everyone with a statement welcoming the odd-even scheme. They stated that in January, the number of trips during the 15-day period increased by 41%, leading to an increase in revenue by Rs. 6 lakh. This did come as a major relief to the financially stressed organisation.
One set of opinion feels that cars are not the major contributing factor to pollution levels and that buses and trucks that spew out diesel were the main cause. In addition, factories located in and around Delhi were adding to the problem, along with open burning of waste.
Many experts are of the opinion that unless these are addressed first, simply reducing the number of cars on roads will not make a significant difference. There is merit in the argument. Factories that contribute to pollution will take time to be completely shut or relocated outside of Delhi. This, again, is a matter of legislation and implementation, both of which require strong political will, as they involve jobs being lost.
Open burning of waste can be stopped but it will require creating widespread awareness and people’s participation. This, too, will take time to understand, absorb and imbibe. It brings us back to CM Kejriwal’s initiative with the odd-even car rule. There is no question that it helps but then he has clarified that it is not going to be a permanent rule and is applicable for 15 days only. It effectively means that pollution is unlikely to go away any time soon.
Long-term measures being undertaken
Both central and state government are fully aware of the need for a long-term solution as the polluted air affects all. In a far-reaching and bold move, the central government has announced the advancement of the date for introducing Bharat V (1 April 2019) and Bharat VI (1 April 2021) norms for vehicles in the country. This will result in far cleaner fuel to be used and will have a significant impact on pollution levels, as more vehicles make the switch over in the next few years.
Another significant measure is the six-lane Eastern Peripheral Expressway presently under construction, that will have trucks which come from outside Delhi, skirting the city instead of passing through it, to move on to other states. Between the expressway and Bharat V & VI norms being implemented on or before 2021, Delhi is sure to see better days ahead, and about time! Meanwhile, let’s make do with the odd-even scheme.
First Day of Odd-Even Scheme II: Over 500 cars fined in first 5 hours
Over 500 cars have been penalised Rs. 2000 each by the Delhi Traffic Police for violating the odd-even rules in the first five hours of the second phase of the road-rationing scheme implemented in the national capital from today, 15 April 2016. Maximum number of challans (129) were issued in the south Delhi area, closely followed by the western part of Delhi that reported 108 challans till 1pm.