The latest experiment by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of allowing a car to ply only on alternate days has garnered mixed reactions from the general public and pollution monitoring agencies alike. Some say that the Odd-Even formula has been a massive success and would go a long way in curbing pollution in the city, while others have dismissed it as yet another naive move by the Aam Aadmi Party government which would lead to counterproductive results. In my opinion, Odd-Even formula can be deemed as a successful stint for the most part, but for it to be considered a precedent for the future, we need to sort out the innumerous other considerations that come with it.
From the perspective of an ordinary Dilliwallah, I think the Odd-Even formula has managed to achieve three things; one, it has patently reduced the traffic in the city with the time taken to travel between two spots being almost reduced by half; two, it has managed to invoke a sense of responsibility amongst Delhi citizens, with many of them using cabs and some even car pooling to move around the city; and three, although there isn’t complete consensus on it but it is suffice to say that the pollution levels in the city during the prescribed period have come down, albeit marginally.
That being said, the Odd-Even formula has not been implemented without its share of problems. Although, the time taken to commute may have reduced, that is largely because half the people have been forced to remain confined to their homes for half the week. Although, cabs and car pooling may have surged, the most important transport systems in Delhi i.e. Metro and DTC buses remain overcrowded as ever, perhaps even more so due to the present scheme. The people have been largely inconvenienced and while some might say that it is worth the sacrifice, I would argue it’s not, because the discomfort one would have to face on a daily basis if this scheme is continued may ultimately end up altering the very way of life in the city and not necessarily in a good way.
It is unlikely that the Odd-Even scheme would be extended beyond January 15th’16, but once it ends, the Delhi Government should forget about the underlying issue entirely. It should strenuously mull, in consultation with the centre, schemes to overhaul the transport system in the city by way of various capacity building programmes through increased public expenditure, look out for alternative sources of energy that may be suitable and in essence, design policy which serves the purpose of curbing pollution without massively discomforting the public. We can only hope the future is better.