Like a bunch of earnest students swotting for their board exams, the Delhi government spent a month preparing for the crucial Monday test of its odd-even experiment that aims to curb pollution and congestion in the national capital.
On January 1, the first day of the 15-day trial of the policy to have car owners with odd-numbered licence plates keep off the streets on alternate days, and those with even-numbered plates on the next, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared success. He even quoted John Lennon to say that he was “a dreamer”. That may have been premature. The policy faced its real test only on Monday as Delhi residents returned to work and school after a long weekend.
In anticipation of the increased weekday traffic, the government put more buses on the ground and asked the Delhi metro to make extra trips. The first two days of the policy saw a fair number of vehicles off the road even as more than 350 violators were fined.
The restrictions come in effect from 8 am every day and last till 8 pm. On January 4, only even-number cars were allowed to ply on Delhi roads, apart from exempted vehicles such as those running on CNG or driven by single women drivers.
At places such as Rajendra Nagar in North Delhi and in Central Delhi’s Connaught Place, volunteers from the Civil Defence force were seen assisting the police with directing traffic and noting down the vehicle numbers of violators. Volunteers could also be seen holding placards near metro stations urging people to use public transport and carpool on their commute. Those following the rule were also being given roses to thank them for doing their bit to support the initiative that has been criticised by several people.
Even as there is no clarity whether cars are indeed the worst contributors to Delhi’s lung-searing air pollution and there are many loopholes in the policy that allows car-owners to circumvent the restrictions, Monday’s experience seemed to have indicated that the capital threw its weight behind Kejriwal’s initiative.
Even as metro stations experienced extra rush and junctions such as Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate saw long queues of commuters waiting to board a train, Delhi residents took to the social media to hail the policy and pointed out how they had reached their destinations quicker due to the reduced numbers of cars on the road. Some posted pictures of vehicles they thought were violating the restrictions and urged the police to take action.
Here’s a selection of responses: