New Delhi, Oct 7 : Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has directed the Transport department to send him the department's views within the next three days, on the issue of exemptions to be granted for segments of vehicles during the Odd-Even period between November 4-15.
In September, Mr Kejriwal had announced the implementation of Odd-Even in November, in anticipation of the smog Delhi faces each winter due to stubble burning in neighbouring states. The Odd-Even scheme was announced as part of a comprehensive Parali and Winter Action Plan by the chief minister.
Under the Odd-Even scheme, the government mandates road rationing to permit use of vehicles with odd and even numbered registration plates on odd and even days of the week. The move is aimed at limiting vehicular emissions into the air during a period when Delhi is already facing incoming smoke due to crop stubble burning.
As the Delhi government gears up to implement the Action Plan, the question of which segments of vehicle drivers should be exempt from the alternate day bar on odd and even number plate registered vehicles is being discussed at length.
In light of the varied views on this matter among the public as well as the departments concerned, the chief minister has sought clarity from the Transport department well in advance. The most critical segment being discussed is that of women. From the point of view of women’s safety, when the government had implemented the scheme in 2016, all vehicles that had only women passengers were exempt from the rule.
The rationale was that women in Delhi feel a sense of security in their own vehicles for travelling and should be permitted to take the safest mode of transport. Additionally, all vehicles with women drivers and male school-going children wearing school uniforms were also exempt, in order to ensure mothers are free to ferry their children to and from school.
The CM has directed the Transport department to consider the implementation of this exemption and share its views on repeating the same for this year’s Odd Even. In the previous edition of the scheme, all two-wheelers had been exempt from the alternate day bar on plying on the roads. While this significantly helped manage traffic on the city’s public transportation system, some experts had expressed reservations against the exemption.
The government believed then that with the current capacity of the city’s buses and Metro rail, it was not possible to carry such a large number of people on the public transport network. The latest estimate for the number of two-wheelers that ply in Delhi is over 70 lakh. If two wheelers are not exempt, it will lead to over 35 lakh persons, other than lakhs of pillion riders, to switch to public transport every day.
The CM has asked the department to review the current capacity of the public transport network and state its views on whether or not two wheelers should be exempt this year.
In the past, all CNG vehicles have also been permitted to play on roads on all days during the Odd Even scheme based on the fact that CNG vehicle emissions are substantially less polluting than diesel or petrol vehicles. However, there were reports of large-scale misuse of this exemption in the previous editions of Odd Even. Mr Kejriwal is concerned that the scheme may fail to achieve its purpose if people bypass the restrictions by using wrongfully procured CNG stickers to evade punishment.
He has asked the department to formulate a position on this matter after duly considering views of Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) and officials involved in the distribution of CNG stickers. The department should consider whether there is any foolproof way of identifying genuine CNG vehicles and in the absence of such a methodology, what are the views of the department on the exemption granted to CNG vehicles.
The CM believes that there is a need to balance the goals for which Odd-Even is being implemented with genuine needs of some segments of the population that use private vehicles. Mr Kejriwal believes that the measure was a huge success, with some studies showing a 10-13 per cent decrease in PM 2.5 concentration as a result of the road rationing scheme in January 2016. If the success has to be repeated, the smooth implementation of the scheme, the active and willing participation of the people and the prevention of misuse of exemptions have to be ensured.
"This needs serious advance planning and has therefore directed the department to formulate its positions on the issue of exemptions in the next three days. The government will take a decision on exemptions after studying the department’s views,' the CM added. (UNI)