Odd and Even- The two numbers that will matter in Delhi

Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi recently adopted a policy to control the state of air pollution in Delhi. According to the proposed plan, private vehicles will be allowed to run across the city on the basis of their registered license plate numbers. Here, the concept of odd and even numbers come into play. On a particular day, the roads can be utilized by vehicles whose license plate is ending with an odd number. And on the next day, vehicles with an even number at the end of their license plate will be allowed on the city roads. This system is unusual to the capital’s populace. It will be implemented from January 1, 2016 for an initial period of 15 days.

The odd and even number cycle will repeat alternatively. It all began after a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 stated that New Delhi harboured the most polluted atmosphere. The survey tested the quality of air in 1,600 cities across the globe. And then in 2015, India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) provided additional data to support the WHO’s report. CPCB’s report also revealed that air pollution in the country’s capital was in the ‘severe’ category for about 20 days in November 2015. This was when the Delhi High Court intervened and asked the government to take necessary actions to curb the issue.

The state government considered several options before deciding on the Odd-Even policy. It has been adopted by various Latin American cities since the twentieth century. The system got implemented in Beijing just before the 2008 Summer Olympics. While the rule was initially said to be temporary, it turned out to be so effective that the government made it permanent. Similarly, such road-rationing rules are imposed at many places like Paris, Mexico and Bogota to curb road jams and pollution.

Ever since the policy decision was made public, it has been criticised on social media extensively. Therefore, the state authorities have made it temporary and experimental. Depending on the response of citizens, the effectiveness of the policy and resultant changes in the quality of air, the government is expected to make suitable changes in the future.

This scheme is anticipated to see some mixed results. If used temporarily, the alternate-day travel policy can have some impact. However, if used as a long term measure, inequality issues might arise, as wealthier people can afford to own two cars. Also, opposite-parity number plates will challenge restrictions, the second vehicle being often older and therefore, more polluting.

The overall effect of the road rationing policy can be reduced by using public transport when private vehicles are to be used restrictedly. This will lead to a rise in the use of public transport facilities which include buses and metro. Hence, the need for safer and superior quality of public transport would increase, which will unquestionably pressurize the concerned state authorities.

To keep a check on thousands of vehicles and punish the offenders is definitely a herculean task. And the Delhi Traffic Commission (DTC) will have to pull up their socks to implement this policy successfully.

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