Odd-Even 2.0: Here's all you need to know
The odd-even scheme will officially hit the roads of Delhi on Friday, assuring a congestion-free ride for the citizens for the next 15 days.
However, Chief Minister Arvind Kejirwal has admitted the scheme could not lower pollution levels as much as expected in the first phase. It did reduce the Capital's traffic snarls though. Kejriwal and his Transport Minister, Gopal Rai, on 9 April held a press conference where they gave final details of the second round of Odd-Even, listing exemptions among other details.
The highlight of the press conference held by the Chief Minister was of a member of the Aam Aadmi Sena, a dissident faction of former members of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), hurling a shoe at the Chief Minister.
Rai announced that 5,000 civil defense volunteers and 3,000 from the police force, 400 ex-army men and 120 mobile enforcement teams will dedicate their time from 8 am to 8 pm to help enforce and implement the scheme. The most important as well as contentious aspect of the scheme has been the exemptions. Let's get to that first.
The exemptions remain almost exactly same as they were in the first phase, with a few additions.
After mulling over who should be exempted, here's what Kejriwal and his government announced as exempt:
The Delhi government had said it would consider exempting senior citizens, following extensive public demand, but there has been no news on that.
Most experts agree with this tweak to the scheme.
What has, however, caused considerable deliberation is the exemptions of cars driven by women or men who are accompanied by children in uniforms. The issue arises when they return after dropping them to school or when parents go to pick them up after school.
Kejriwal said if a case arises when the parent has to pick up their child from school, a woman of the family must go and pick up the child. This leaves much confusion to the entire exemption. "In case where a male driver has to go and pick up the child, we suggest he carpool with others."
The only solution if you are male is to leave the car near the school when you drop the child, carpool back home, carpool back to the school and pick up children.
Clearly, the government could not get around this exemption, and has come up with a convenient solution.
Public transport seems to be beefed up more than last time around when the scheme was introduced in January.
A new overhauled environmental monitoring scheme
The government is serious about monitoring pollution this time around. The Delhi government will initiate manual monitoring through hand-held light scattering systems across the city. To monitor pollution levels, 70 monitoring centres are being set up.
Additional monitoring centres are also being set up in neighbouring cities bordering Delhi to assess pollution levels more accurately. The monitoring centres will primarily monitor fine dust particles.
Reactions to Odd-Even
With respect to women being exempted, many argue that since the scheme ends at 8 pm, it is safe and convenient for women to follow the rule. Those who are involved with woman's rights state it is important to create conditions where women not just are, but feel, safe.
"It is imperative that women use public transport for a scheme of such proportion to work. Albeit, for women to be depend on such mode of transport last mile connectivity is important. The focus should be on buses. The present fleet of buses does not meet the demand of those who depend on it," says Kavita Krishnan, women's activist and AIWA Secretary.
Former member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) B Sengupta says "it is a good idea to exempt women, due to public transport being unreliable and unsafe, two-wheelers should not have been exempted as they contribute heavily to pollution".
Kejriwal said two-wheelers could not be brought under the rule since around 40 lakh people used them.
An independent study, conducted by researchers at the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Programme at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D), on the odd even policy at four prime locations, says that while the compliance rate is high, the scheme overall does not affect pollution levels.
The study called "Evaluation of the effects of the 15-day odd-even scheme in Delhi: A preliminary report", states the air pollution benefits were not apparent because of various factors and that the data obtained Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which shows decrease in pollution levels, was not enough to analyse the benefits of the intervention.
As per the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, on the first day of implementation, PM2.5 fell in the first half of the day, but increased in the evening.
Data did show that vehicular pollution was a substantial contributor to PM2.5 levels, since the levels increased after 8 pm, when the restrictions on the movement of vehicles were lifted.
Dinesh Mohan, a former IIT professor and one of the authors in the study says that "there is no pragmatic reason for the scheme to be implemented again. It is causing inconvenience without any benefits. The study clearly shows there is absolutely no impact on pollution levels".
Dinesh also argues that tweaking the scheme, like decreasing exemptions, will not work. "It did not work elsehwere in the world with respect to pollution levels, why would it work in India?"
The IIT report concludes, "The combined PM2.5 emissions of buses, three wheelers and motorised two-wheelers is estimated to be 20% of the transport sector compared to cars that contribute an estimated 16%. In light of the fact increase in flow of buses, three wheelers and motorised two wheelers seems to be of a similar magnitude as the decrease in car flow, the effect of decrease in PM2.5 emissions by cars would be even less. It is possible that the decrease in emissions from cars may be offset by an increase in flow of other vehicles."
While Kejriwal plans to implement the scheme every month, we hope a more robust transport system and clear exemptions are laid out before he decides to do so.
Edited by Sahil Bhalla