The Scheme to Cure 43.4 Million Choking Lungs: Delhi's #OddEven Plan (or the lack thereof).

Delhi is a city that’s always been in the news for all the wrong reasons. From rising crime rates to rising (and hence deadly) pollution levels and everything inbetween, discounting politics almost entirely since that’s just fodder for everyday cacophony on news channels.

The Delhi Government heralded by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recently announced that the commuters of Delhi will need to follow the system of alternating between odd-numbered and even-numbered vehicles. They’re giving this a 15-day trial-run. The only people who will perhaps gain from this are the law enforcers who will ‘challan’ commuters at the drop of a hat, provided they are able to tell the difference between odd and even numbers, although given the potential amount of money that they’ll make, math tuitions and YouTube videos are going to be the flavor of the day.

Bizarre punishments of handing out roses to violators of this odd/even rule is not only laughable, but also immature and will be looked upon by the public at large as a gimmick and a stunt for AAP to tom-tom on Twitter and the like. Similarly, exempting women and bikes (or anyone/anything for that matter) from this ‘plan’ is providing immunity where it’s not required and promotes discrimination in a law that is meant for the habitants of Delhi/NCR, which renders this ‘test’ as a limited and a partial one at that.

In isolation, this plan/program/test/rule is destined for failure and will cause more inconvenience than providing the people of Delhi relatively cleaner air to breathe. One can only assume that the Government has already given thought to the points below and their’s work underway to address these points.

1) The cost of purchasing a car in India is very affordable by the middle-class people in Delhi/NCR relative to the rest of India (and even the world), what with the flexible and convenient EMI schemes that banks and financial institutions offer. This will almost ensure that one-car households will soon become two-car households and will cause more traffic due to the lack of parking some time very soon.

2) The concept of car-pooling is alien in India. Giving ride to strangers in your car is akin to what private cab drivers tend to do for quick cash and is looked upon with disdain. Not to mention, the safety aspect is going to be a main concern for people, especially the womenfolk in the area that this rule is being implemented/tested out in. I am a frequent user of public transport and prefer that method, but in Delhi, riding with strangers or using public transport is absolutely out of the question.

3) Public transportation is not only inadequate, but also lacks coverage especially in the satellite cities which are far-flung and large.

4) The main cause of traffic + pollution in Delhi/NCR are the corporations that are housed in Delhi, Noida, and Gurgaon that employ workforces that would put factories of yore to shame. The first thing that the Government should have looked at implementing (or perhaps they already are), is making it compulsory for companies that employ more than 150 people in a single location to organize and maintain a fleet and schedule of deluxe buses/shuttles and almost incentivize their employees to ride in these. Building parking centers at a place where people can park their cars and then board these buses would also be a welcome addition.

5) Car-riding services such as Uber and Ola need to be encouraged to introduce carpool services in Delhi/NCR (and across India) rather than being threatened consistently and continuously with the consequence of being shut down on flimsy grounds when these services have proved time and again that they are safe, reduce traffic, increase employment, and are loved by consumers wherever they operate. Checks and balances do have to be in place and as long as they comply, they should be encouraged to innovate and experiment, as well as pilot new ways of improving commuters lives in India.

6) Incentive schemes also need to be created for the public to encourage them to be more efficient in their usage of transportation. Cheaper fuel for cars that carpool 5 days out of 7, creating dedicated car-pool lanes, encouraging resident complexes to promote carpooling in their communities by offering them Municipal tax breaks, are just some of the ways in which I think carpooling in general can be promoted rather than an archaic system of an odd/even rule.

Basing the premise of this rule on a simple philanthropic acknowledgement of reducing pollution and pollutants is not going to bring about any positive change when it comes to the regular commuter and the woes that they undergo on a daily basis, that of traffic and time spent on the road. Delhi needs to address this, but the lawmakers’ expectation of getting the public to adapt themselves to a crippled and incomplete solution is perhaps not the right answer. The only solace one can find is that this is a test run and that the Government will learn from this and use this opportunity to make this viable and convenient for the people of the national capital and home to 43.4 million choking lungs.
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