Ebullient at the success of the introductory odd and even scheme, Arvind Kejriwal launched it again, effective from April 15 to the end of the month. He expected great success and congratulations from all over, including from the usually sceptic environmentalists. The last time he spent a fortune on posters congratulating him and his government in achieving success in the odd and even scheme, the first ever in India. The posters could be seen pasted all over Delhi and also in the neighbouring states.
But this time, the beginng has been rather ominous and more and more people have been complaining of total disruption of life. Senior citizens, traders, restaurant owners and middle-class have been particularly affected. The arrangements for public transport–increased number of buses and increased frequency of metro—were not as perfect as the last time. Long lines could be seen at bus stops.
The worse was the day-light robbery by taxi and three-wheeler drivers who had turned more callous than Shylock. Arvind Kejriwal realised that the taxi and two-wheeer drivers had turned blood suckers. A total of 69 Uber and Ola taxis were impounded for over-charging. About two-wheelers Kejriwal clearly stated that two wheeler exemption will continue for the odd even scheme due to inadequate public transport and lack of capacity to ferry 30 lakh extra passengers, many people have suggested that in that case senior citizens above the age of 65 should also be exempted. In fact their case should be taken up on priority basis.
Among the number of suggestions made by people were that cars carrying 4 or more passengers should be exempted, there should be staggered office- timings for government offices starting from 8 a m till 11 a m. Many people also sought relaxation for the older generation in the second phase.
“Senior citizens above the age of 65 / 70 should be exempted.Also citizens following odd-even voluntarily may be honoured,” said a copy of the survey carried out by the Delhi government. Actually the senior citizens and the handicapped need special consideration. They cannot walk long
distances nor many can afford a driver. Yet one doesn’t know when they might require medical attention. Life for those who live alone is still more challenging attention ,getting medical examinations and arrangement for daily help, is a challenging and tedious task. The Government released a 20- point suggestions list along with the feedback data. However, according to a government official, none of these is likely to be acted upon in the second phase.
Many suggestions have also come that instead of taking public feedback, the decision on the second phase should be based on scientific survey of the data of pollution and not on citizen feedback.Other suggestions included, “If a vehicle with lady driver and child is allowed, there should be no harm in allowing a male to also sit alongside as the car is on the road in any case, persons travelling to airport from outside Delhi should be exempted.”
Along with the suggestions,people also requested streamlining of public transport and reducing the higher fares being charged by auto drivers and app-based cab drivers.”Control auto-fares which had skyrocketed during first phase of odd- even, stop overcharging by Uber/Ola cabs, introduce point-to-point bus shuttle service through premium buses,” said the suggestions.
Many also said that cars coming from other states should be exempted and allowed to go to their destination in Delhi so that people coming from long distances are not affected.One of the suggestions said, “Instead of odd and even dates, exemptions should be based on the last digit of the vehicle registration number wherein those ending in 1 should not be allowed on 1st, 11th and 21st of every month etc., which will “reduce hardship to 1/10th”,” another suggestion said.
“In case of families having two or more vehicles, if all cars bear odd or even numbers, option of changing the numbers should be given. Also, both Saturday and Sunday should remain exempted days from odd-even,”people suggested.
The Delhi government launched a special drive against auto-rickshaw drivers and challaned 475 of them for violating various rules and refusing to ferry commuters. Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said the drive will continue for the next few days. “We have issued challans to 475 auto-rickshaw drivers for violating different rules and refusing to ferry passengers,” he told reporters. Rai said a complaint can be registered on 011-42400400 if any auto-rickshaw driver refuses to ferry commuters.
The eateries, both small and big have been badly hit. One, families are not travelling, only those who need travel, so the result is that the usual family outing for a meal at their favourite places is not happening. The absence of diners has hit the restaurants serving middle class most. Various offers have been made. One restaurant owner offered 50 per cent of the taxi fare, another offered a dish of the value equal to the amount paid for taxi. Two small restaurants have been opening late and closing down early.
The hawkers, one thought would not be affected but it seems they too are unhappy. Their grievance is that “car –wale log jo humse saman kharidte they, ab nahi aa rahen hain.”
It is indeed surprising that unlike the January odd-even phase, in the current one, more people seem to be disgusted with the programme ‘which does not accomplish the objective for which it was started’.
This realisation has caused most dislike for the scheme. A contractor said why should he have to spend Rs15000 to Rs22000/- on taxis for some elusive objective.
The people are aware that the pollution level did not dive down. Yet thousands’ lives were dislocated. Arvind Kejriwal will find, one day, that his popularity has evened out with odd and even scheme.
The last time he spent a fortune on posters congratulating him and his government in achieving success in the odd and even scheme, the first ever in India. Those posters were not only seen all over Delhi but even in adjoining states. This time he will be well advised to avoid self-admiration and instead appoint a committee with speialists and environmentalists to study how to make Delhi air less poisonous.
By Vijay Dutt