Motorists have increasingly become more willing to comply with the odd-even restrictions, as per analysis of prosecution data of the three editions of the scheme that the city has seen since 2016. The third and latest edition concluded on November 15.
The scheme was initiated by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government as a measure to tackle rising air pollution in Delhi. Odd-even is a road-rationing system in which vehicles with registration numbers ending with even digits are allowed to run on even dates, and those ending with odd numbers are permitted to ply on odd dates. The restrictions do not apply on Sundays.
During its 13-day debut from January 1 to January 15, 2016, a total of 10,058 motorists were penalised for not following the regulations.
The rule was enforced again from April 15 to April 30, 2016. In the 14-day period, 9,576 drivers were issued the ₹2,000 fine for violating the rules.
The third and latest edition of the scheme has been the shortest. It was implemented from November 4 to November 15, but the scheme was suspended on November 11 and 12 so that the Sikh community could observe Guru Parv without any restrictions.
In effect, the third iteration of the scheme lasted only nine days. During that period 4,885 fines were issued to violators. This time the penalty was ₹4,000.
The Delhi government has said that the dip in prosecution figures was evidence of the scheme’s increased acceptability among the Capital’s citizens.
“The decrease in fines issued this time indicates an increase in voluntary compliance with the regulations of the scheme. It also shows that the people of Delhi are ready to do their bit for better environmental conditions if governments in power make an effort to address the issue,” said Jasmine Shah, vice-chairman of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi, a government think-tank.
“As far as environmental impact [of the scheme] is concerned, there are many studies which have proved its effectiveness in bettering the air quality of the Capital,” Mr. Shah said, adding that the Delhi government is monitoring the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the city on an hourly basis and a decision on whether or not to extend the enforcement of the scheme will be taken on Monday.
On November 15, as the third edition neared its conclusion, the Supreme Court observed that the scheme seemed to have had little impact on air pollution. The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta stated that improving public transport so that more people use it, may work out to be a better solution than the odd-even scheme. The judges added that cities that have successfully used the scheme had given no exemptions. Women drivers and two-wheelers were exempted from the rule this time.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the Delhi government, told the court that data show a 5%-12% reduction in pollution due to the scheme. Justice Mishra, however, observed that the AQI figure of last year and this year for the period seemed to be the same.
‘Commuters being harassed’
According to the Opposition, the scheme has led to nothing but harassment for commuters.
“Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is trying to mislead the people. Even the Supreme Court has pulled up the Delhi government for not being able to submit any credible evidence positing that odd-even had any impact on the air quality of the city. The scheme just ends up becoming a source of harassment for drivers belonging to the middle-class,” said BJP MP Vijay Goel, citing personal accounts from motorists. “If Mr. Kejriwal is serious about the issue of pollution, why did he not allow the scheme to be in place around Chhath Puja? And why was it allowed to be suspended for two consecutive days around Prakash Parv?” Mr. Goel asked.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Traffic Police has been slowing honing its skills to catch violators of the scheme. The department issued 2,870 fines in the first edition of the scheme; in the latest iteration, it caught and fined 2,500 motorists.
A senior traffic police officer said they identified 200 traffic points in more than 50 traffic circles across the city to enforce the scheme — in coordination with the Delhi Transport and Revenue departments.
“This time, it was easier for the traffic police to identify violators as there was no exemption for CNG vehicles. In 2016, traffic policemen first had to look for a CNG sticker before noticing the registration number,” a police officer said, adding that the Delhi Traffic Police issued on-the-spot e-challans to violators.
Schools shut; fine doubled
After the implementation of the new Motor Vehicle Act this year, motorists were “very cautious” and sought to avoid violating any traffic rules, the officer said, adding that this may have had an impact on the downward trend of the fines.
“This time, the fine amount was ₹4,000… double the fine amount issued when the rule was first introduced,” a traffic policeman pointed out.
“Fewer cars were seen on the roads as people voluntarily carpooled. Schools remained shut for four days due to extreme pollution levels during the scheme,” said another traffic policeman.
Despite a clash between police and lawyers at the Tis Hazari Courts on the day the odd-even scheme came into effect, the force managed to fine 233 violators. A day after the clash, policemen staged a massive protest at the Delhi PHQ at ITO; but they still managed to catch and fine 213 motorists violating the odd-even rule.
After the conclusion of the second edition, the Delhi government formed a six-member committee to study the impact of the opening of schools and hot weather on the scheme. The committee had concluded that the second iteration was “largely successful” as car owners voluntarily complied with the initiative. It also pointed out that opening of schools had led to congestion in the vicinity of the institutions.
There were an additional 388,886 cars, 134,598 two-wheelers, and 8,000 buses in the second edition of odd-even compared to the first, the panel had noted. Data on vehicles plying DND flyway showed that 16,224 cars entered Delhi from Uttar Pradesh during two days of odd-even — between 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. — as opposed to 18, 071 cars during the two days after the scheme, the committee had observed. An average reduction of 12%.
Data on vehicles plying NH-8 indicated that 20,427 vehicles entered Delhi from Gurugram between 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. during one day of the odd-even rule; 23,613 vehicles entered the city after the scheme ended.
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