With just a week left before the odd-even plan is implemented in Delhi, the blueprint announced by the Kejriwal-led government doesn’t seem to assure on several fronts. Even as the Delhi government announced a slew of measures to implement a 15-day trial of the proposed plan, solutions offered so far raise many questions.
Pandering to the Vote Bank
Take for instance the move to give permits to 10,000 autos. It is well known that the auto drivers have been a traditional vote bank for AAP and helped the party climb to power. Giving permits to 10,000 autos may add to hassle for commuters as a majority of auto drivers refuse to go by meters.
The public transport in Delhi is in shambles, there are, what experts refer to as ‘transit deserts’ across the city, where transport is not readily accessible. A piece in The Quint earlier highlighted how the disconnect exists between bus stops and GPS location of autos in the city.
So is this merely a quick fix solution aimed at appeasing a certain section and widening the party’s vote base?
Nalin Kohli, Spokesperson of the BJP told The Quint,
Implementation is the key, if it’s not done well it will lead to chaos. Building positive synergy with all stakeholders is important. Let’s see what happens in next few days, I’m only worried about the blame game for now.
Volunteers, A Group of Untrained Vigilantes
Another disturbing aspect of the blueprint is the move to get 10,000 volunteers comprising of NCC/NSS and civil volunteers to aid in the implementation of the plan. Their job would be to try and convince citizens to comply with the proposed plan. The chief minister calls it a culture change saying, “rok ke, gulab ka phool dekar manayenge”.
While it may all seem sweet and fine on a chilly winter day, one is left to wonder how many people would be comfortable with this sort of vigilantism.
What legal authority can this army of 10,000 volunteers possibly have and would there be any background checks on them?
Vehicles From Outside Delhi To Pay Fine
The Delhi government had earlier not clearly stated what would happen to vehicles coming to Delhi from neighbouring states such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. If the scheme is meant to be implemented across NCR then a separate set of measures should have been announced. But to a question on vehicles entering Delhi from other places, the CM clarified that the usual system of challan that will be enforced.
Who Will Monitor the Fines?
Lack of clear jurisdiction to impose the Rs 2000 fine on vehicles for not following the odd-even plan may lead to an unruly situation. Though the fines would be levied under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 how will the understaffed traffic police force of the city handle additional duty of charging ‘odd-even’ fine?
Police Commissioner, BS Bassi has so far dismissed any plans to seek changes in the Motor Vehicle Act for implementing the odd-even plan.
Studies Question Car-Centric Policy
Credible research suggests that just the car-centric policy may not work wonders. A study done in 2013 by Guttikunda and others illustrates that vehicular exhausts are not the only culprit behind PM 2.5 levels. Apart from transport that contributes 17 percent, power plants, brick kilns and industries contribute 16 percent, 15 percent and 14 percent respectively towards PM 2.5 pollution.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction perhaps what is really needed is a long-term policy to improve the quality of capital’s ambient air. As Dinesh Mohan, associated with air pollution studies and Volvo Chair Professor Emeritus, IIT Delhi told The Quint,
Since emissions are contributed by many sources, a long-term multi-pronged approach is necessary. There is no short-cut.
Some Unanswered Questions
There are some unanswered questions as well that need to be addressed if the policy is implemented on a long-term basis. For instance the schedule that lists 25 categories of vehicles being exempted from the plan includes a fleet of vehicles under the category of ‘emergency vehicles’ such as ambulance, fire brigade and so on. What happens to a person who has to be rushed to a hospital in an odd-numbered car on an even day?
The press release by the government says vehicles being used for medical emergencies to be exempted on trust basis. Now what kind of proof will suffice as acceptable evidence and doesn’t it open a window to break rules or fleece hapless citizens?
It’s loopholes like these that cast a shadow on the proposed odd-even plan which is likely to inconvenience the aam aadmi for whom the entire plan is being envisaged in the first place.