The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government triggered a seismic shift in the ordinary life of Delhiites not once, but twice, with two consecutive renditions of its ambitious odd-even car-rationing scheme this year.
The maiden edition of the rule, from January 1 to 15, was undertaken after Delhi’s toxic air quality made headlines and caught the Supreme Court’s attention, which termed the city’s atmosphere as a ‘gas chamber’.
In an admittedly ‘desperate move’, the AAP government decided to cut down pollution levels by halving the number of vehicles allowed to ply on its streets.
When the scheme ended, the government embarked on an exercise to ask the public if there should be a second round.
Within days of the first edition wrapping up, the government decided to implement odd-even again.
The second instalment of the odd-even rule was implemented from April 15 to 30. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the scheme in the run-up to the conclusion of his maiden year in office. Women drivers, two-wheelers and VIPs continued to be exempted.
The maiden edition of the scheme garnered mixed responses from environmentalists and experts over its actual impact on curbing air pollution.
There were similar reviews and mounting criticism for the second edition.
But the Delhi government remained upbeat about the effect the scheme had on the Capital’s ambient air quality.
After the first phase of odd-even, Mr. Kejriwal had said that his government was ‘seriously considering’ the ‘permanent enforcement’ of the scheme for 15 days every month. However, all did not go according to plan the second time around. Fire incidents at landfill sites, open city schools and the inconvenience faced by parents dropping or picking up their children during its implementation and severe congestion despite what was claimed to be adequate compliance by drivers led the government to constitute a committee to zero in on what went wrong.
On May 11, close to a month after the second phase of the scheme ended, the six-member committee concluded that phase II of odd-even was “largely successful since car owners in Delhi voluntarily complied with the initiative” but also made a note of “some additional factors which impacted” it.
The functioning of schools, which were closed during the first phase of odd-even but were open in the second phase, was found to be a major reason for congestion in their vicinity. The reports also said there were an additional 3,88,886 cars, 1,34,598 two-wheelers and 8,000 buses, which were missing in the maiden edition.
Construction activity at Bhairon Marg, Rao Tula Ram Marg and the dismantling of the BRT corridor were also found to be contributing issues even as data collected from incoming vehicles from Gurgaon and Noida indicated that the residents of satellite towns did not shift to car-pooling or public transport.
The government has now admitted it needs more time, planning and the creation of awareness among the general public before implementing the scheme for a third time.