Delhi Government is not tiring of proclaiming the success of the odd even system (system of allowing cars with odd or even number- plates to run on alternate days),that it ventured to try in the Capital in the first fortnight of January 2016.
Full page ads in newspapers, hoardings on highways, ads on TV and radio, press statements, press conferences, public meetings,all possible publicity media have been fully exploited.But was it a success really?
To succeed, according to dictionaries, means: to accomplish what was intended.In this case, what was intended was to achieve reduction in air pollution. The maximum reduction in air pollution that the scientists are willing to concede as being attributable to the odd even formula is 3 to 4% which did not mean any alteration the categorisation of air quality as very poor. Which means that the intended purpose was not achieved. What was achieved as a bye-product was reduction if road congestion. In other words, as the Times of India implied in editorial comments on 13.2.16, you took treatment for weight loss but achieved reduction in hair loss.
That the odd even venture will not help reduce air pollution was obvious from the beginning as cars constituted just about 5% of the motorised vehicles in Delhi and their emissions were the least polluting factor. The bigger factors were the dust (from roads and construction activity)burning of rubbish etc and commercial vehicles. With odd even formula, just about 3% of the vehicles would be off the roads. But the odd even formula appealed to the Delhi government as the most attractive option as the car owners being numerically disadvantaged were least likely to resist.Besides it would have maximum dramatic impact on public psyche.
What the Delhi Government is proclaiming as the success of the scheme but what was really a side effect, was the reduction in road congestion with 3% of the vehicles going off the roads at peak hours.This was possible because those effected were people commuting by their own cars who obviously compromised because they calculated that, with the duration of the scheme being 15 days, each of them would be affected for 6-7 days. (Some of them had 2 cars with odd/even numbers and some could car-pool). For 6-7 days they could manage by hiring taxis or 3-wheelers. It was not any pursuation by Govt through frequent appeals on radio etc. as they are proclaiming, since the scheme. it was known all along, would not affect those not using personal cars as such people were not very likely to use public transport. The public transport, as it happened. was impacted only marginally although some 3000 additional buses were put on the roads.
The government, encouraged by the hair strengthening effect of the medicine they administrated for weight loss, has now changed the goal post and decided to go in for a repeat of the earlier venture ostensibly because the people want it. Surveys conducted by the Delhi govt. through various means indicated that a majority wanted repeat performance, some even on a permanent basis. It is obvious that since only a small minority of people commute by personal cars, the majority would support repetition of the drama. Through their surveys, the Government did not even try to ascertain how many people are using personal cars to commute and their opinion in the matter. This apparently does not matter since such people constitute a very small fraction of the voters. The majority would be happier still if all the cars were eliminated on all days even though that would not help reduce air pollution.
Meanwhile it has been brought out in a PIL filed before the Delhi High Court that the Delhi Government has totally failed in its own duty to implement the pollution control measures under the existing law. The pollution certifying booths are a sham and there is no checking worth the name to ensure that vehicles carry the pollution cotrol certificates as prescribed under the law. It becomes clear that government is more interested in drama than in achieving the purpose of reducing air pollution.