A friend on Facebook commented how happy she was with the recent odd-even plan that allowed her a hassle-free car ride to the workplace. Apart from one’s pleasant experience, the question worth asking is whether the AAP government achieved the objective – that of rationalisation of vehicles.
With the advent of the New Year, Delhi just got a whiff of one-of-its-kind pollution policy measure. The move may be well-intentioned, but whether it was backed by substantive thought is a pertinent question to ask.
The Delhi Statistical Handbook 2014-15, a report by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Delhi Government, reveals there are 88.27 lakh registered vehicles in Delhi as on 31 March 2015. Four-wheelers that include cars, jeeps and taxis constitute 32.51% of the total vehicles registered with the Transport Department of Delhi.
Interestingly, two-wheelers far outnumber four-wheelers, making up around 64% (nearly double the number of four-wheelers) of the vehicles plying on Delhi roads.
No Official Estimate Available
How many vehicles will be off Delhi roads on any given day, during the odd-even run? We don’t know. “No such figures are available”, said a senior Delhi Transport Department official on whether data is available on the exact number of odd and even-numbered vehicles plying in Delhi. We tried contacting several other top-notch officials of the Delhi Transport Department in a bid to get exact figures, but received no response.
Since 1 January, the Delhi government has been sharing figures related to challans issued, complaints received by the helpline number, and number of people who have downloaded the Poocho app with the media. One wonders what is stopping the government from calculating the number of vehicles that have gone off the roads post the implementation of the plan.
In an earlier story, we had shared with our readers why cars alone shouldn’t be singled out as a source of pollution.
Experts reiterate the need to bring all vehicles under the ambit of the odd-even plan. “Transport cannot be singled out as the main source, when talking about city’s ambient air pollution. Other sources should be addressed at the same time. Yes, with the day time exposure rates in mind, it makes sense to control traffic flow, which should also cover all vehicles, not just private passenger vehicles”, says Sarath Guttikunda, Director, UrbanEmissions.Info.
Trying To Create a Buzz
It was 31 December, just 24-hours before the odd-even plan kicked off. I was tyrin to call Brijesh Goyal, Convener of AAP Trade Cell several times. It was evening when I finally got to chat with him over the phone. Goyal and his team said they would run a citizen awareness program, ‘seIfie with car’ campaign wherein stickers to be put on four-wheelers would be distributed. All one had to do was to click a selfie with his/her car and send it to the number provided. And some would get chosen to be felicitated by Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai.
When asked about the number of vehicles that would be off road, Goyal put the figure somewhere around 5 lakh. But these are mere estimates which couldn’t be corroborated officially.
Unlike Brijesh and his team, not everyone is enthusiastic about the Delhi government’s latest move. Irked by several anomalies, lawyer Shweta Kapoor had filed a PIL in Delhi High Court in December last year, seeking restraining order for implementation of the odd-even plan. “My point was that odd-even scheme had failed in both Beijing and Mexico. Transport system is not ready then, why decide to go for such kind of experiments”, says Shweta.
Despite the Delhi High Court refusing to stay AAP’s odd-even formula on December 23, Shweta has a valid point indeed.
Hoy No Circula (Day without a car program), introduced in Mexico in the 90s didn’t work since people started buying second-hand cars to beat the ban.
Does Delhi need to take lessons from Mexico? Perhaps yes, banning vehicles on the road can’t be a solution when we don’t even have exact figures available related to vehicular movement.
An operative part from Delhi’s Economic Survey 2015 perhaps reflects the need to do some on-the-ground statistical analysis:
Delhi Economic Survey 2014-15
There is a contradiction regarding the actual number of vehicles plying on Delhi’s road as the large number of vehicles registered in Delhi are plying in NCR areas and vis- a-vis the vehicles registered in NCR are plying in Delhi. Transport department is making efforts to estimate the actual number of vehicles in Delhi by taking into account vehicles that have outlived their life due to any account, transferred to and from other states etc.
As they say, well begun is only half done, may be we need to take a step back and analyse the situation more objectively. Focusing on other sources of pollution such as power plant, dust, etc. and switching to better fuel emission standards, can mark the beginning of a well-thought plan of cleaning capital’s air.