Driv­ing Delhi Around in Cir­cles

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Rakesh Mo­han Chaturvedi

and peo­ple don’t ven­ture out in their SUVs af­ter that hour. Per­haps the strangest as­sump­tion be­ing made is that peo­ple won’t buy a sec­ond car if this scheme is im­ple­mented for half a month ev­ery month.

Ke­jri­wal needs to be more re­al­is­tic. In none of his ad­ver­tise­ments has he ap­pealed to cor­po­rate houses and of­fices to use car-pool­ing for their em­ploy­ees who do not have a desk job and have to move around for meet­ings. Ex­empt­ing women driv­ers seems un­called for, es­pe­cially as the scheme will be in ef­fect from 8am to 8pm.

But the idea is sup­ported be­cause Delhi roads are still not safe for women, there is hardly any im­prove­ment in last-mile con­nec­tiv­ity, pub­lic trans­port would be­come even more un­safe for women as th­ese will be over­crowded dur­ing the fort­night, and taxis are a ser­vice not ev­ery woman can af­ford.

Delhi will once again see women driv­ing alone in their cars while the male mem­bers of their fam­i­lies will take pub­lic trans­port or taxis. The end re­sult will not be less cars on the road.

Lead­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers are al­ready promis­ing to launch hy­brid cars which may con­trib­ute to check­ing pol­lu­tion, but not re­duce traf­fic. More­over, if ‘odd-even’ be­comes more reg­u­lar – the plan is to im­ple­ment it ev­ery month from next year on­wards – the num­ber of peo­ple re­fus­ing to sell their old cars or keep­ing two cars will keep go­ing up. As will the num­ber of taxis and two-wheelers.

Some car brands are in the process of launch­ing sub-2000 cc mod­els to beat the ban on reg­is­tra­tion of new diesel cars above this limit. Pol­lut­ing ve­hi­cles like trucks and diesel cars will be al­lowed to ply from 8pm to 8am. Diesel ve­hi­cles above 2000 cc can al­ways be bought from out­side NCR and plied here. So stop­ping reg­is­tra­tion of new ve­hi­cles from this cat­e­gory does not help much.

Delhi is a city where peo­ple hag­gle with park­ing lot at­ten­dants for small change and plead not guilty in front of traf­fic po­lice even af­ter bla­tantly vi­o­lat­ing rules. Ke­jri­wal will be well aware that cars will be back on Delhi roads with a vengeance from May 1, as they did from Jan­uary 16 on­wards.

The Delhi govern­ment ap­pears to be keen on grab­bing eye­balls through the ‘odd-even’ scheme rather than make any con­crete, long-term con­tri­bu­tion to ei­ther re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion or mak­ing the roads less con­gested. For in­stance, what mea­sures has the ad­min­is­tra­tion taken to close down pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries which cause a ma­jor share of the pol­lu­tion?

That this ‘odd-even’ project is more about slo­ga­neer­ing and pos­tur­ing than find­ing real, long-term, holis­tic so­lu­tions was clear when the AAP govern­ment ob­served a no-car day in Jan­uary. Most AAP min­is­ters got dropped off in their cars to the venue to par­tic­i­pate in the event.

As things stand, the real ben­e­fi­cia­ries will be auto and taxi driv­ers, as well as the vol­un­teers – around 5,000 of them will re­port­edly be pressed into ser­vice from April 15 to 30 – and re­tired Army per­son­nel the Delhi govern­ment plans to hire. The ex­che­quer would be bled of hun­dreds of crores once again as Ke­jri­wal will use the funds to ad­ver­tise him­self and his sig­na­ture ‘odd-even mir­a­cle’.

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