In the wake of Delhi government’s decision to take stringent measures to curb pollution in Delhi, we asked some of the Delhi folks to respond to this decision. While the decision has been supported and opposed in equal measure, we do believe that the problem of pollution in Delhi masks a deeper problem: pathetic public transport system. Lack of adequate public transport is not a problem for Delhi alone; almost all Indian cities suffer from the lack of a decent public transport system. We hope the question of pollution would ultimately draw the attention of our governments and city-planners to install a decent, workable, and affordable public transport system.
Read the responses of some of the Delhi residents (You may read Part-I of the responses here):
Recently, the Delhi government announced the odd-even rule to curb pollution. The rule bans odd numbered private vehicles from plying on certain days and even numbered cars on the remaining days of the week. However, Sundays are exempted from the new regulation.
The rule, in theory, sounds good. After all, the pollution level in Delhi has reached alarming proportions and, no wonder, the Delhi High Court likened living in Delhi to a gas chamber. Under the circumstances, some drastic action definitely needs to be taken. However, it remains to be seen whether the new rule achieves its desired objective.
First, the public transport system of Delhi is not as robust as other metros around the world such as Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Bogota, where such kind of a rule exists. Furthermore, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is already struggling to cope with a huge number of passengers during office hours. According to a report published in The Times of India in April this year, the DTC’s fledgling fleet is hardly enough for the existing 45 lakh commuters, who avail bus services to travel to work daily. Once the new rule comes into effect on and from 1 January, 2016, the number of office goers availing bus services will increase manifold and it can be safely assumed that the public transport system will not be able to handle such a rush.
Second, the Delhi Metro doesn’t cover each and every part of the city. Areas such as Mayur Vihar Phase II, Sangam Vihar, Dhaula Kuan, etc. can be accessed only by bus, cab or car. Needless to say, commuting to these places by public transport will become a nightmare.
It would be advisable that adequate research should be done before such a draconian rule is put into effect. Else, the odd-even rule will meet the same fate as the plans of Muhammad Bin Tughluq, the 14th century ruler of Delhi, who devised many such grand plans for the welfare of his subjects but, alas, the plans turned out to be damp squibs when implemented.
Is the odd-even-formula the right way to curb pollution? Only time will answer this. As the Hon’ble judges noted, we are living in a gas chamber and we should welcome any measures to clean the air. Let us all contribute our bit and at the least give it a shot rather than look at the downside of it from day one.
It’s true that any measure would have another side and loopholes, which need to be plugged. Questions in this case include: Is our public transport system efficient and equipped to handle the additional numbers who would be using them? Will this measure curb the actual vehicular pollution?
As a fact, most well-to-do households in Delhi own more than one car. What if they have an odd numbered one and an even numbered one? Isn’t this measure going to cause inconvenience to the lesser affluent sections of society? What about those who are absolutely dependent on these private modes of transport for their livelihood? What about those who at present own just one vehicle but can afford another to tackle the new measure? Would this rule be applicable to all sections of public or limited only to a certain section of the population? Are our leaders and public officials ready to lead the way?
A competent public transport is something I admire about London, a place where I have spent a considerable amount of time. Can we not learn from places like Amsterdam, London, etc. to improve our public transport and ensure that it becomes a means of transport for all? The very people who have their chauffer driven vehicles and entourage here are quite comfortable with the public transport in the west.
I am not trying to blame the users alone. But there needs to be a joint effort to make our city a better place. A recent example would be that of a Rajya Sabha MP and one of the most respected and renowned advocates in the country, who cycled to Parliament and the Supreme Court and even asked the Chief Justice of India for a cycle stand in the Supreme Court. We need more such leaders to show the way.
I would be more than happy to play my part in this. Only we are to be blamed for not being able give our next generation a liveable environment.
Poet & Docu-maker
I think the traffic jams are a bigger problem than pollution. Also, that there are too many private cars and very less buses. Across the world, even VCs of companies take the tube or metro to reach office. But Delhi is a city of Juggad and “tu janta nahi mein kon hu” (You don’t know who I am). So for usual commuters, it gets very tough.
I am not sure if the even-odd-formula works. I think AAP and AK are making fools of themselves trying to attain some media attention.
But I like the idea of a single card for DTC bus and metro. I also like that they want to reduce private cars and test for more buses from 1 January. This is a model that should be adopted. But this is not the right way I think. I feel very bad for the commuters who use the bus. I use it often. A shining nation with bullet trains should not let its humans rot in a small tin container under the scorching heat of summer and a freezing winter, as they travel from home to work and back.
A documentary called New Delhi Private Limited shows through facts and figures how the road condition in Delhi has worsened because of too many private cars.
Docu: New Delhi Private Limited
I do not feel much pollution. The horns are a little on the higher side and makes me close my ears/eyes.
The traffic is so bad that it makes people fight with each other. I once had to get down from my auto and stop two people screaming at each other because one of them thought that the other was blocking our way and creating a jam.
AAP, which I voted for in the last assembly elections, has been largely miserable, except for some of their policies regarding higher expenditure on Education and Health, proposal to scrap BRT, etc. and a few other issues. And I really think there is a Delhi, which lies beyond South Delhi and Lutyens’ Delhi. Something that the current Government does not seem to understand.
From Sundar Nagari, where AK started his career, to Madanpur Khadar, where I shot him for a docu, while he was promising many things, now recorded in a video that lies in my hard drive, these Delhiites are probably laughing at the pollution jibe. They do not really have a proper place to stay during the winters.
Global warming/climate change and air pollution are global concerns. And while Delhi’s air might well be terrible, it is not killing us yet. But the cold winds might kill those who are on the road, battling their disease outside the AIIMS.
Mosarrap H. Khan
Disclaimer: I’m not a resident of Delhi. I lived in Delhi between 2000 and 2001.
It was January, 2002. I was getting ready to bowl at a cricket field in my hometown, Kotulpur, in West Bengal. I started my run-up and halfway through I felt I had choked. I almost stopped breathing and felt I would die. I didn’t realize initially what had happened. While other players tended to me and I walked out of the field, it took me sometime to understand the enormity of what had happened to me.
When I consulted a doctor, he informed me I had just experienced a severe attack of asthma. Since I never had such an attack, it set me thinking about the possible reasons.
I had just returned from Delhi, where I had joined for a PhD program at IIT-Delhi, which I dropped out of in December, 2001, when I landed a job in Darjeeling. In Delhi, I didn’t play much (whereas I was extremely active in sports at Hyderabad Central University, where I completed my MA). The only strenuous activity that I engaged in was jogging in the DDA Park opposite IIT. That’s why I never felt I was being slowly eaten up by the high level of pollution in Delhi.
Those were the days, when the Delhi High Court had already ordered that all the vehicles in Delhi must be converted to CNG to curb pollution. That was the first phase in an effort to improve air quality. Like many others, I didn’t pay much heed because I never directly experienced it. Of course, not until that January, 2002 afternoon, when I almost choked on a cricket field.
I don’t live in Delhi now. But I might start living soon, who knows? Since this is the second time (after 2000) that pollution is being discussed seriously, I have no hesitation in saying we must do whatever it takes to make our capital city liveable.
Don’t forget, the monster is eating all of you up in Delhi. Invisibly.
<If you would like to share your experience/concern about Delhi Pollution and the Odd-Even-Formula, write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org>
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