The national capital will go car-free on January 22, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday at an event to mark the city’s second car-free day in West Delhi’s Dwarka. The event is an initiative by the Delhi government to encourage people to give up using private vehicles and use alternative modes of transport such as buses, cycles or the Metro instead.
The second car-free day started with a colourful cycle rally from the Dwarka Sports Complex near Sector 11 at about 8.25 am. Nearly 4,000 people turned up bright and early to participate in the rally; enthusiastic participants included civil defence personnel, bike enthusiasts, students, senior citizens, residents and AAP volunteers.
They waited patiently for Kejriwal, as a lone tea seller handed out cups of steaming chai to help them beat the morning cold. At the venue, some marketing campaigns seemed to be on in full gear. A courier company got specially tailored azure cycling gear and matching cycles for its employees, while some people advertising the services of a doctor held on to a bunch of blue gas balloons. On a stage set up for the occasion, a singer belted out Vande Mataram while a compere did his best to motivate the crowd.
Kejriwal arrived at about 8.15 am and indulged some of those present by taking selfies with them. Flanked by his security personnel, he hopped on to a cycle and led the rally as curious onlookers crowded the pavements to catch a glimpse of him. After covering the stretch, Kejriwal and the others cycled back to the venue, while Transport Minister Gopal Rai urged the crowd to chant after him, “No pollution, no congestion, car-free day only solution”.
Admitting that the city’s public transport was “not adequate and elaborate”, Rai said, “We must change. You have to take buses, cycles or the Metro to work as frequently as possible… I thank auto driver unions, cyclists and all those who made it to the event,” he said. When it was his turn to speak, the chief minister started his address with ‘Bharat mata ki Jai’ and ‘Inquilab zindabad’.
With a smile, he said, “I was apprehensive about two things when we were planning the car-free day: will people come out and participate and will I be able to ride a cycle after 25 years? Both my fears were proved wrong.”
Talking about the first car-free day on October 22, which coincided with Dussehra, the CM said, “Last time’s car-free day was more symbolic than anything else. And there were detractors who said it was merely a four-hour affair… But today proved that this is a reality and I give Gopal Rai the credit for his stubborn conviction in the idea. We will go on holding car-free days everywhere in the city. Not everyone will participate. But even if 5 per cent or 10 per cent participate in the event, it will bring down pollution levels… and that will be something”.
Kejriwal announced that he and his cabinet colleagues would be cycling to work on January 22, the fourth car-free day in the capital. The third car-free day in the capital will be held in East Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar and Patparganj areas on December 22, said the chief minister.