Delhi today witnessed introduction of the odd-even scheme, an unprecedented anti-pollution measure in India’s history, that led to major cut in volume of cars on the city’s streets with AAP government claiming that the radical initiative has received widespread acceptance.
As the clock struck eight in the morning, the restriction on plying of private cars came into effect with thousands of traffic police personnel and government officials assisted by volunteers fanning across the city to enforce the pilot plan which will stay in force till January 15.
“I am truly overwhelmed by the response. People have achieved the impossible. I am sure Delhi will show the way,” said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, adding the initiative has turned “into a movement”.
In a tweet he also used legendary singer John Lennon’s words from his iconic song Imagine, “You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us.”
As many as 25 categories were given exemptions from the restrictions which included emergency service vehicles, taxis and cars being driven by women even with female co-passengers and children up to age of 12.
Two wheelers and CNG-run vehicles have also been exempted.
Under the scheme, private cars having odd registration numbers are being allowed to ply on odd dates and those with even numbers on even dates. The restriction period is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those caught violating the scheme have to pay a penalty of Rs 2000.
As many as 200 teams of Traffic Police, 66 enforcement teams of transport department and 40 teams of sub-divisional magistrates were deployed across the city to ensure strict implementation of the scheme.
Pollutants dipped by around 10 per cent on average between 8 AM to 2 PM today compared to the last two days, “possibly” due to the odd-even restrictions, before rising sharply afterwards with a fall in day time temperature.
As per initial observations of System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the gains of less vehicular emissions could have been more, had there been less vehicular movement and no bursting of firecrackers on the night of January 31.
To augment, public transport, an additional 3,000 buses were deployed in the city while metro had run an additional 70 trips.
Delhi’s Transport Minister Gopal Rai said “We thank people of Delhi for making the scheme a success on the first day. The same Delhi, which was called selfish, has shown the way. We thank all people for choosing their children’s health.”
The government has challaned 66 autorickshaw drivers on the basis of complaints received by the a helpline launched yesterday to ensure citizens do not face any hurdles in commuting.
Till evening, Traffic Police issued 81 challans against motorists violating the scheme.
Rai even said people have responded to environment- friendly drive the same way they came out to the streets during the anti-corruption movement three years ago. “That time people of Delhi wanted a corruption-free city. Now they want a pollution-free city.”
The Chief Minister said the scheme will not be permanently implemented and made it clear that it may be enforced periodically when pollution level spikes. He accused the Centre of trying to sabotage the scheme on the eve of its implementation by instigating the strike by bureaucrats.
“I repeatedly said that the scheme will meet with success only when people embrace it and not though force. It has become a movement and we are truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far.
“Delhi will show the way to the rest of the country,” Kejriwal told reporters outside his residence.
However, the real test of the scheme’s effectiveness will be on Moday as a number of private offices are closed today. Also the schools are having winter vacation, which would have taken off some load from the traffic.
Kejriwal shared his car to the Secretariat with transport Minister Gopal Rai and Health Minister Satyender Jain. They live in North Delhi’s Civil Lines area.
Social Welfare minister of Delhi government Sandeep Kumar took a bus to reach Secretariat while his colleague and Environment and Forest minister Imran Hussain arrived in an e-rickshaw.
At certain areas, volunteers and civil defence personnel offered people roses prodding them politely.
Display boards were installed at several areas across Delhi to provide the real-time figures of air quality.
One such board outside Delhi Secretariat read suspended particulate matter PM 2.5 and PM 10 at 360 and 480 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively, at 9.30 AM, several times above the safe limits.
The Delhi Metro said no substantial jump in ridership was observed. The total ridership stood at 19.8 lakh at 8 PM as against the average daily ridership of around 27 lakh.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay criticised the ruling AAP saying there were “practical problems” in implementation of the scheme. The Delhi Congress chose not to react saying it will comment after 15 days when the pilot plan will get over.
Delhi odd-even rule update:
8.00 pm: The scheme generated a lot of debate on social media as people came out openly in support of the programme. Aam Aadmi Party leader Gopal Rai tweeted that a total of 117 vehicles have been fined on day one of odd-even scheme.
6.40 pm: Arvind Kejriwal re-tweeted a tweet showing drop in pollution index as compared to 10 am at 6 pm.
This is amazing http://t.co/RaW8w8Z2Vx
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 1, 2016
5:56 pm: Arvind Kejriwal termed the scheme as a ‘movement’ and said that reassessment will be after Jan 15. 2:20 pm: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said it was not possible to implement the odd-even traffic rationing scheme on a permanent basis. 12: 45 pm: Pollution monitoring in mobile vans as odd- even plan rolled out. 11: 50 am: Civil guards with roses monitoring the odd-even plan at Select Citywalk mall, Saket. 11:24 am: Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain leaves for Delhi Secretariat in an E-rickshaw.
11:02 am: MA Naqvi says, “Odd-even formula is a good initiative, an effective & important step towards reducing pollution levels in Delhi.”
10:37 am: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal says the response has been overwhelming. “Delhiites! U give me hope that U are capable of achieving big challenges,” he writes in a tweet. “Am pooling my car and going to office with 2 ministers, my PS and my Joint Secy,” he adds.
Delhi has done it! Reports so far v encouraging. Delhiites! U give me hope that U are capable of achieving big challenges — Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 1, 2016
10:05 am: Delhi minister Satyendra Jain said that he is confident people of the city will ensure the success of the scheme.
9:58 am: The opposition has meanwhile stuck to its stand that the scheme is doomed to fail.
9:35 am: Pollution meters have been put up at several places across the city. 9:25 am: The first violator of the rule has been challaned at ITO. Volunteers are standing at the Delhi Noida border with flowers and posters in hand.
9:10 am: Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra has left for the Delhi secretariat on a motorcycle.
9:00 am: Most of the cars on the road today are odd-numbered. Also, the traffic is quite light owing to the New Year.
8.15 am: A few even-numbered cars were challaned in the morning. The first violator was challaned at ITO.