The ambitious odd-even scheme of Delhi government, a first such intervention in the country to combat spiralling air pollution, got off to a decent start on new year with volume of cars on the city roads coming down significantly amid deployment of thousands of policemen and and moderately augmented public transport.
As the clock struck eight this morning, the vehicular restriction policy came into effect with thousands of volunteers carrying roses also taking to the streets to assist traffic police in enforcing the pilot plan that will stay in force till January 15.
“Overwhelmed” by the response of the people to the car rationing experiment, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the pilot initiative of the AAP government has turned “into a movement”.
Cars bearing odd-numbered registration plates shall ply on city roads today while those with even number plates, if taken out, will attract a penalty of Rs 2,000 under relevant sections of the Motor Vehicles Act. It will be vice-versa tomorrow.
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 which is stipulated till 8 PM on week days.
Even as the scheme was unveiled, the air quality continued to remain very poor with areas of the city including the Delhi Secretariat complex recording severe level of pollutants in real time.
An additional 3,000 buses have been deployed in the city as part of efforts to augment public transport. The metro has also decided to run 70 extra trips.
The Chief Minister said that as per initial reports, the plan has been “quite successful” and people in the national capital have largely accepted the restrictions with an “open mind”.
“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.
Delhi Police Chief B S Bassi once again appealed to people to follow the restrictions. “I appeal to people to cooperate with Delhi Traffic Police for 15 days,” he said, adding that adequate personnel have been deployed for implementation of the scheme throughout the city.
He said that “today’s focus will largely be on educating people about the scheme. However, prosecution for violating the same shall be at place.”
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who reached the Secretariat in his official car bearing odd-number registration plate, echoed the Chief Minister’s observation saying that people have adopted the initiative as their “own mission”.
“And government is merely assisting them. So this is the ideal situation,” Sisodia said.
At certain areas, police fined violators while volunteers and civil defence personnel offered people roses prodding them politely.
Delhi government, with the help of traffic police, had yesterday conducted a rehearsal ahead of the roll out of the scheme and hundreds of civil defence volunteers were seen assisting police teams in several parts of the city.
Kejriwal, who has repeatedly stressed on the need for the scheme to be successful in view of the capital’s alarming pollution levels, had warned volunteers against “arguing or misbehaving” with motorists.
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 respective safety limits are 60 and 100 micrograms for the two and prolonged exposure to anything beyond that can harm the respiratory system. Air quality is considered‘severe’ by Indian authorities when the level of PM 2.5 breaches the 250 mark.
Two-wheelers are included in the list of 25 categories that have been kept out of the ambit of the scheme.
The rest of the Cabinet, including Kejriwal, will carpool to work and use public transport. Environment Minister Imran Hussain and Social Welfare Minister Sandeep Kumar will take an auto and a bus, respectively, to reach Delhi Secretariat.
The first prosecution for violating the restrictions odd-even scheme took place at ITO junction around 33 minutes after the restrictions were implemented this morning.
While being imposed with the Rs 2,000 penalty, the offender told the police that he was heading towards his office and there was no convenient transport facility from Pari Chowk, the intersection between NOIDA and Greater NOIDA, which is close to his residence, said a senior traffic official.
Microblogging site Twitter is helping commuters find information about bus routes, Metro, autorickshaws during the road-rationing experiment.
Twitter users can get details of public transport available in particular areas by tweeting #pollutionfreeDelhi followed by the departure and destination point. Twitter will instantly send users real-time public transport updates pertaining to the area.
Apart from that, users, who do not wish to make their location public, can send a message to @transportdelhi and thereafter, he or she will get destination details to be sent by @transportdelhi.
Under the scheme, 25 categories of people are being given exemptions including the VIPs.
In certain areas, vehicles having even registration numbers were seen plying.