The Delhi government’s odd-even policy to check air pollution faced its first big test Monday as the capital returned to work after the New Year weekend. With few hassles, stricter policing and augmented bus and Metro services, the policy appeared to be a success, with most commuters willing to follow the rule.
“Agnipariksha pe bhari padi hai Dilliwalon ki ichcha (The people’s will has overcome trial by fire),” Transport Minister Gopal Rai said Monday evening. He said many who did not want the policy to succeed had said that Monday would be its “agnipariksha”. “However, the people of Delhi have made this their campaign and voluntarily followed the vehicle operation code,” he said.
Rai said that on Monday, the traffic police issued 1,040 challans to violators of the policy while the enforcement wing of the Delhi transport department issued 109. The sub-divisional magistrates issued 766 challans for odd-even violations. Health Minister Satyendar Jain, the nodal minister for the implementation of the Delhi administration’s pollution control measures, said the violations amounted to 0.01 per cent of the private vehicle population in the capital.
“We are getting feedback from the people of Delhi. Many of them are saying we should make this (odd-even policy) permanent. Everyone is saying that their travel time has been halved,” said Jain.
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The government took strong exception to a picture circulated on social media that showed an overcrowded Metro station. The picture, the government clarified, was taken at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station in October and was being circulated to mislead people. DMRC managing director Mangu Singh said the Metro did see a slight increase in traffic, but not in absolute terms. “The traffic was just like last Monday,” he said.
“Many people thought buses will be overcrowded and there will be panic. But even today, all our buses were not full,” Rai said. He added that 7,143 buses, including DTC, cluster and private buses, ran in the city Monday. Rai said the government had reserved 100 buses to ply on routes that are crowded. However, not even one of them was pressed into service, he said.
The government, he said, will also name and shame 283 schools that had registered 1,433 of their buses for public transport but eventually opted out. “These schools had committed to the noble cause of pollution control by letting their buses out for public transport during odd-even operations. But by backing out, they have not only cheated the government but the cause,” Rai said.
“There was no shortfall in bus services as most people are carpooling,” Rai said.
According to the government, a dip in particulate matter levels was recorded on the third day of the policy based on data collected from its mobile pollution monitoring vans in south and central Delhi. But data from six other locations from east and northeast Delhi showed higher levels of the pollutants.
Admitting that the six locations in east and northeast Delhi, bordering Uttar Pradesh, recorded pollutant levels “on the higher side in comparison to central and south Delhi”, the government said Monday: “This proves that NCR towns need to take effective steps to supplement the measures being taken by the people of Delhi to reduce air pollution. Delhi government will take up this matter at all appropriate forums to ensure air quality improves across the city.”