Govt needs to bring clarity to carpooling rules if pollution and congestion are to be effectively tackled.
As a recent report by Economist Intelligence Unit shows, Delhi has slipped six and Mumbai two places in the latest liveability index. A significant reason for the drop is climate change and pollution. Another study, by MoveInSync, highlights that the average commute speeds in Indian cities are between 18-25km/hr. The TomTom traffic index, last year, had indicated that Mumbai and Delhi were the most congested cities in terms of traffic. A significant reason for this is rise in the number of cars, without a substantial increase in public infrastructure, but policy has also been a constraint. The government hasn’t done enough to provide clarity on carpooling despite several ride-sharing apps cropping up.
Although the Centre did come out with taxi policy guidelines, these alluded to separate registration for private vehicles, both four- & two-wheelers, for commercial pooling services. The latest amendment Bill doesn’t amend Section 66(1) that forbids deputing private vehicles for commercial purposes. An IIT Madras study highlights that ride-sharing can help cities bring down congestion and pollution. Most of this can come from cars, as the occupancy rates are 2.2 people per car, as compared to the full capacity being four or five. Similarly, for bikes, the occupancy is 1.2, as against 2. Thus, policy failing to update itself to respond to emerging challenges is an opportunity lost—Delhi loses Rs 60,000 crore each year to traffic chaos.