A rather odd (even) formula

As a citizen it is now starting to worry me how governance has become hostage to sensationalism causing knee-jerk reactions and ill-conceived laws. What’s worse, is that to me it appears, no arm of the government seriously wants to talk or engage in finding logical long term solutions to the challenges before us as a nation. The Juvenile Justice Bill just passed by Parliament (which I will be challenging in court if the President gives it his assent ) is one of the worst pieces of legislation. It violates the constitutional guarantees and rights of juveniles. That law makers in the centre allowed themselves to be held hostage speaks very poorly of our democracy.
And if that was not enough we have another ‘quick fix solution’, this time by the Delhi government and even the courts. The banning of diesel vehicle registrations by the courts and the odd-even formula proposed by the Arvind Kejriwal government. No one denies that Delhi is facing a crisis as so far as the environment is concerned. But this environmental degradation did not happen overnight and I dare say none of the headline grabbing ‘answers’ can simply by themselves have much impact.
Here again the lack of willingness to go into the depth of the problem is appalling. For starters, unregulated construction in and around Delhi is the biggest cause of pollution. No government wants to tackle that. Floor after floor is added to buildings, bringing its own set of issues. The material for construction is dumped near the roads or on pavements, disturbing the smooth flow of traffic and the dust from these sites adds hugely to the pollution levels. For each additional floor added, occupants moving in, will require water, electricity, again causing stress on the already fragile eco-system in Delhi. They will bring with them their vehicles and lack of parking means, these vehicles get parked on roads and pavements. While there are guidelines, the building departments in the government’s are the most lucrative postings, for the money to be made and unless the whip is not cracked how does one expect improvement in Delhi.
Instead, what we have is, governments falling over each other to regularize illegal construction. No government wants to look at the illegal gen-sets in people’s homes shops and offices that throw black fumes. Most of these ‘local’ gen-sets use an inferior engine. Apart from smoke they even cause noise pollution. The courts thought rich people must not be allowed to pollute and I agree with that but on what basis did the courts ban the registration of new diesel vehicles above 2000 cc? What was the logic for 2000 cc and why not say 1500 cc? Did the courts take into account that perhaps a new diesel vehicle above a 2000 cc engine, for example a Range Rover may pollute less than an old Tata Indica diesel roaming on the roads. The courts and government cannot operate in an economic vacuum when they ban entry of trucks over 10 years into Delhi. It is not the age of the truck but the overloading and lack of maintenance that causes it to pollute.
Also, what is the mechanism to stop all the trucks on the borders of Delhi? Has anyone calculated the fuel loss due to the long lines when these trucks will be checked for year of registration? And lastly has anyone calculated the cost to inflation when new trucks are ‘bought’ specially for Delhi? If banning diesel was the solution, Beijing should have no smog, as no diesel vehicles are allowed on the road. Both diesel and petrol have different emissions and emission from a car are greatest when the engine is cold. In winters, a petrol engine takes almost double the time to warm up as compared to diesel cars, so it may not actually be wrong to say that in cold winters in Delhi, the diesel car may actually be better for a short route.
Did both the courts and the government go into any detailed study before imposing the ban? It is much cheaper to improve the quality of the fuel yet isolated decisions taken by the courts or different governments without a complete cohesive plan will mean that we will never get to the root of the problem. To tackle pollution all governments and agencies need to come together and work together. It makes no sense to me that to protect Delhi some types of vehicles are banned but the same “polluting” vehicles are allowed outside the NCR region. Does the court not consider citizens outside the NCR as equal citizens and does the government not realize that emissions and pollution travel through the air and can still reach the capital.
Now to Kejriwal’s ‘odd-even formula’. First, the CM has done nothing to stop the roadblocks in Delhi. As mentioned earlier, people park their vehicles on pavements and roads, slowing traffic down. The Delhi government has no plans to construct parking that Delhi so desperately needs. What’s worse is, the cars and bikes on the roads ensure no help vehicles can reach for hep in case of a disaster like a bomb blast or earthquake.
A look around Delhi will reveal that it’s two-wheelers mostly that are parked on foot paths, forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads. Mr Kejriwal is unable to answer why an exception is made for bikes? Or was it because the owners and promoters of the countries two biggest bike manufactures support him? Are they less polluting than cars? Does a single woman in an old car pollute less than men in a brand new car that is well-maintained ? Why should gender and not pollution be the deciding factor? How does the CM plans to have the police inspect if the boy with the woman is below 12 years? Are we going to stop cars now on roads as if we don’t have enough of that? How does the Chief Minister plan to ensure the police not under him, implement his plan?
Most Delhi ‘jugadus’ already have different number plates, again is the police going to stop cars and cause more traffic bottle necks and snarls? The state government has created no IT backbone to check the registration of cars. In cities where the ‘odd-even’ formula is implemented, the cops have all the technological back up in their devise and all they need to do is punch in the vehicle number and get the complete details. In India, the police still rely on papers of the owner. This can easily be manipulated. If the Kejriwal government was so serious about fighting pollution why did it remove the BRTS? When will new buses be added? Lastly, the CM has not specified what ‘very strict action’ will be taken against rickshaw drivers who extort people? After all apart from this very vague statement the CM has not gone into details on how he plans to tackle his ‘biggest vote bank’ and prevent his largest supporter base from making a quick buck at the expense of hapless citizens. This odd-even formula will come as a boon for them. I’m not against the odd-even formula or even the diesel ban but in the absence of public discourse, facts, IT back up, economic considerations and long term solutions I believe, these knee jerk actions may actually cause more harm than the good they intended.

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