This article must be read in consonance with my previous article titled, “Restricting driving policy- The game of Odd & Even”. In that article, I tried to explain, briefly, what the policy was all about with some glimpse of its historic origin and thereafter its constant usage by many countries with their respective success rate.
The main focus of that article was to portray the game of Odd and Even in the capital city of Delhi, where AAP government decided to apply such restrictions, on the concern mentioned by WTO over the rate of pollution (air) which was considerably very high and was harmful for human inhalation. Speaking of which, faces on both the sides of the coin were read where one explains the benefits of such policy and the need for its implementation whereas the other side criticizing the policy on the belief that its implementation will lead to the chaos among the public and therefore would not be less than a failure.
Before the implementation of the policy, people were curious about the possible consequences but now we have seen the phase of its implementation and the reaction of the public on it and therefore my objective in this article shall be to present such reactions i.e. from the administrative side, from the side of experts and other political views. The article shall also ponder on the view of the Court on the same and will try to take a stand upon what should be the possible future recourse; whether such restrictions should be restricted or be given the green.
The Dawn of 2016
The dusk of 2015 and the dawn ‘16 were awaited by many eyes of the world as the day was about to be noted as a momentous one in the history of India. The restrictive driving policy was scheduled to trigger on 1st of January, 2016 and the people of Delhi NCR were to be regulated by an unprecedented law. As the concern of the administration was to curb the issue of pollution (air) from the environment, an equal amount of anxiety was present to know the reaction of public when such burdensome policy was to be imposed upon them.
Within a few days of the implementation of the policy, there are conflicting voices as to whether it is a success or a dejected failure. The primary concern of the experts was on the pollutants in the environment of Delhi. PM 2.5 and PM 10, two measures of particulate matter, have been Delhi’s most prominent pollutants, and accurate reading for these are important to measure how Delhi’s air quality has worsened over the years. The particulate concentration of PM 2.5 or the AQI value, which was ideally meant to stay below the level of 60 ppm, was vacillating around 435 to 500 and thereby making the environment unhealthy. Based on the above data, the experts opined that the success rate of the restrictive policy is very low, if not nil, as there is still a high concentration of pollutant available in the environment. Thus, the expected result of the scheme is far to achieve, instead created an extra burden on the people who are now facing the consequences. But the view of the ruling government was in contra with that of the above one. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stated, “I am truly overwhelmed by the response. People have achieved the impossible”. The said statement was observed after people of Delhi decided to follow the restrictive policy; speaking of which, there were considerably less number of violations which occurred. The government has challaned 66 autorickshaw drivers and also other 81 motorist who violated the scheme. One can observe that the numbers of violators were considerably very low as compared to the total number of vehicles registered in the city. It was also observed that the, “pollutants dipped by around 10 per cent on average between 8 AM and 2 PM when compared to the last days, possibly due to the odd-even restriction.”
Fate of the scheme
In the words of Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, “the scheme will not be permanently implemented” and he made it clear that “it may be enforced periodically when pollution level spikes”. To this we come to a few basic questions as to what will be the fate of this scheme? Whether such scheme will be a ‘temporarily relief pill’ to the underlying problem or a step towards some permanent solution?
Since the government has made its intention clear that it is going to implement this scheme periodically whenever required, this may not be a permanent solution to the issue. Anyhow, this can never be the solution as the very nature of this scheme is temporary and is only applicable on an emergency basis.
Coming to the golden question of what can be the solution, the answer to it can be, what I call, ‘developing the basics’. By saying so, I mean developing the basic factors which are so connected to the city transport system that if properly and efficiently regulated, may reduce the pain. Taxation system, reducing congestion on the road (proper regulation of traffic), use of alternative environment friendly sources of energy in vehicles etc. are a few of the approaches. Improving these basics will not be a complete final solution but shall be a step towards achieving a long term goal of well-regulated transport and thereby a clear environment.
By only reducing the number of vehicles on the basis of odd and even number plates may definitely ease the transport and traffic, but the bad transport law with poorly regulated streets cannot be ignored if long term success is aspired.
There can be many solutions to this issue along with many expert opinions suggesting different methods. But will that method be the required solution to curb the issue? Only its implementation in the long run can bring some clarity to the future of the scheme. Undoubtedly, any method which pursues to achieve the required goal will one day bear good fruits; the only demand is that of the time. The driving restriction policy of the Odd and Even Scheme, as one of the command-and-control policy instruments is just an attempt to escape from the shadow of the pollution levels but as already stated earlier, it cannot be relied upon, as it is just a pill to push away the disease and not a cure to it.
Since the government has very well realized the same, it now becomes the duty of the experts to provide a draft idea as to how to proceed past this Odd-Even driving restriction policy. Since the last date for the implementation of such policy was scheduled to be 15th of January, the government shall be in need for some alternate method of maintaining the pollution level in the Capital. The more the delay occurs, the greater the difficulty is created; and thereby it will become impossible to reach the original level of safety; after which, it will be no better an environment but compromise!