On the face of it, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s proposal to have cars with odd and even number plates to run on alternate dates is brilliant.
With half of the traffic off the roads every day, there will be lesser jams and air pollution levels will come down.
However there are many reasons why this idea is doomed to fail from the very beginning.
Here is a look at some of them…
1. Public transport inadequate: Cities in certain developed countries tried this with some success. But then they don’t have a population problem and have excellent public transport.
Sure Delhi has a Metro, DTC and many taxi services. However all of these are inadequate in handling a half of the Delhi traffic population.
The vehicles in Delhi number in the millions and public transport will be choked to the seams and the people of Delhi will be severely inconvenienced if it is strictly followed.
2. Traffic police short: As it is traffic policemen are in short supply and many people get away breaking traffic rules. Can you imagine a policeman standing at a traffic signal checking all the number plates?
If there are just a few he can levy fines on them. What if there are many? If Delhiites start breaking the rules from Day 1 then traffic police will be forced to stand back and do nothing.
Even if they manage to fine just a fraction of offenders, the rest will be emboldened to break the rules.
3. How much fine is fine? Now here’s the thing. How much will be the fine? Rs 100? Rs 200? Rs 500? What if Delhiites feel that the paying of fine is better than being inconvenienced without a vehicle?
To strictly enforce this, will traffic police make it a serious offence and cancel the license with multiple violations? Will that be fair? Will that lead to a spike in corruption? Has the whole thing been thought through properly?
4. NCR and out of India woes: Another problem with Delhi is that it is actually NCR. What happens to vehicles from Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad? One official talked of relaxing it for them.
There are two problems here. One the traffic policeman will struggle to even identify odd and even and on top of that they will have to identify the State of origin too! Secondly, people of Delhi will simply start registering new vehicles from these four satellite towns!
In years you would have vehicles registered only from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in Delhi and the whole concept would become a joke! Even if you include the three States, then people might as well start registering in Punjab and Rajasthan and getting in to Delhi and using it as long as they can.
5. Midnight in Delhi: What happens if you leave home for a party at night and return at midnight? How will that be handled? Will there be a grace time for a few hours? Again, has the whole thing been thought through?
While the final details are awaited, the government says that it will be 8am to 8pm. That means you might be able to drop your child to school in the morning but could be problematic if you get delayed on return.
You might also be tempted to leave earlier than 8pm if you think you won’t meet the cops in the first half of your journey. It already seems to be watered down even before it is implemented.
6. What about emergencies? India is a crazy developing country and emergencies keep coming up every now and then. The school bus may face a problem and you may have to rush to school and pick your child.
The ambulance may not arrive on time as may not the taxi that’s dropping you to the airport or railway station. There are many pitfalls of introducing such measures in a developing country.
7. AAP is implementing it: One AAP spokesperson said that the Centre and Delhi Police should not play politics and co-operate then only will it become successful. The irony is that it is the AAP that has a record of playing politics and not co-operating.
They never take the responsibility and always put the onus on others. In fact Kejriwal has already said that it will be revoked if not successful. They are already setting it up to fail. In fact this has nothing to do with the AAP’s efforts to reduce pollution.
The courts have slammed the Delhi government for not doing anything about air pollution and this is just a token measure by the AAP to show the court that they are trying something.
It is not a serious affair.
8. The 2-car theory: The biggest problem is that even if we overlook the above points and it becomes successful (traffic police implement it strictly, fines are stiff and other States’ vehicles face restrictions) it will still fail in the long run.
If some Delhiite has a budget of Rs 10-12 lakhs, he will simply buy two cars of Rs 5-6 lakhs each and pay extra to have both odd and even number plates. People with a much lower budget will end up going in for two Nanos. Bike sales will also increase.
It is doubtful that the actual number of vehicles will ever go down by such a measure.