Unless rules and laws are strictly implemented without fear and favour, those without motor vehicles, an overwhelming majority of the city, will be left with no place to walk in Delhi
It was estimated in early 2012 that there were as many as 75 lakh vehicles registered in Delhi. It has been argued that many of these do not ply in Delhi but in Rajasthan, UP, Haryana and Punjab and so the number of vehicles in Delhi is less than the number registered. While this is true, one cannot ignore the fact that a similar number of vehicles registered elsewhere also ply in Delhi and so the numbers would, by and large, cancel each other out and the increasing load on the roads of Delhi would not be reduced in any substantive manner.
In fact, it is increasing by the day. It has been estimated that 45 per cent to 50 per cent of the heavy vehicles transporting grains, pulses, edible oils, consumer goods, iron and steel and cement bring these goods from production centres to the wholesale markets of Delhi and then transport them to their consumption centre in other states, with Delhi as the holding and distribution hub.
The much discussed plans of relocating wholesale markets from the heart of the city and creating corridors that carry heavy traffic away from the city need to be implemented. And that too with alacrity, if we want to bring down the traffic load on the roads in Delhi and also reduce the spiralling numbers of fatal and grievous hit and run accidents involving heavy vehicles taking place on the peripheral and major arterial roads of Delhi.
Despite the growth in the network of the metros, large parts of the city like Shalimar Bagh, Rana Pratap Bagh, Shakti Nagar, Roop Nagar, Kamla Nagar, Vasant Kunj and many other areas remain uncovered and will remain so even after the completion of the current phase. Given this, there is an urgent need to rapidly expand the number of buses plying under the DTC but reports on the number of vehicles in Delhi give us another picture.
The figures show us that over the last decade Delhi has seen an increase of 313 per cent in the number of vehicles of private transport like cars and SUVs. The number of taxis on the roads of Delhi has registered an increase of more than 700 per cent. Vehicles of private transport, four and two wheeled, account for 93 per cent of the net increase in the total numbers of vehicles added during the last year alone. The number of buses that should have stood at almost 11,000 had barely reached a paltry 6,000 or so with only 2,500 being added during the last year.
Clearly, there is urgent need to shift our priorities and it is necessary to systematically push public transport and to discourage the unbridled sale of vehicles of private transport. Traffic rules that have been put in place in many metropolitan cities across the world, prohibiting motorised traffic in down town areas and ensuring that at least 10 per cent of the traffic is taken off the roads every day, need to be devised for Delhi and other metros as well.
But this is not all.
We need to have rules that discourage car owning families from buying more cars. We need also to strictly implement the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s decision that every house built after 1911, on a plot size larger than 100 sq. metres, has to compulsorily provide for stilt parking. Defaulters need to be heavily penalised and their vehicles confiscated. The large number of trucks, buses, and other heavy vehicles including concrete mixers, trailers, earth moving machines and others that are left parked on public roads need to be removed. Those who do not have a place to park these vehicles should not be permitted to own and operate them. There are existing municipal laws according to which any one parking a commercial vehicle on a public road is in breach of law and liable for prosecution.
The practice of charging a one-time heavy parking fees from all car buyers from Delhi and then not ensuring availability of adequate parking spaces within residential areas is singularly responsible for the rampant encroachment of all pedestrian areas and the left lanes of most roads passing through densely populated areas of the city.
Unless the various rules and laws that have been framed after much deliberation are strictly implemented without fear and favour those without a motorised vehicle, and they are the overwhelming majority of this city’s population, will be left with no place to walk.
This city where almost everyone has an explosive temper, where everyone runs on a very short fuse and everyone claims to know powerful people needs to learn some basic lessons in civility. The city, led by its elected representatives has to learn to respect the rights of the pedestrian and vacate the pavement -- that narrow strip of land that is supposed to run along every road and is the only bit of land that the pedestrian has been left with in this megalopolis aspiring to be a world class city.