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Monday, 11 January 2016

What Delhi should but what Delhi will!

They say in India things don't move till the nth hour is upon us. That too only when pushed to the brink. Take the hastily passed bill on Juvenile Justice. But for the overwhelming public outrage before the release of the Juvenile rapist/murderer in the Jyoti Singh case, the Parliament would have been happily stalled and plodded through the winter session. 

Do it now. NOW!

The other case pushed along because of judicial activism was the rising pollution levels in Delhi. When the push came to shove due to the court's stricture, out came a hastily thought about solution popularly known as the #OddEvenFormula. It meant that the car owners in Delhi would be able to take out their vehicles only on select days depending on the odd or even numbers of their registration. Despite the many exceptions allowed and some stopgap decisions taken to support the formula like keeping all Schools shut during the trial run, the jury is out to evaluate the effect of this attempt. At the time of going to the press, claims and counter claims galore later, the following seems to be emerging as a consensus:

Pollution in Delhi doesn't seems to have reduced by any noticeable levels. There is a fear the prima donna citizens of Delhi might end up buying another car with even/odd number registration to beat the system.There is a more dangerous possibility emerging of people indulging in "jugaad" of a fake number plate.The public transport arrangements in Delhi have been stretched and are threatening to burst at its seams.The positives to emerge out of the trial run have been lesser cars on the roads and thereby far lesser traffic jams on Delhi roads. Violators have contributed handsomely to the Govt kitty vide fines.Despite the doomsday prophecies, Delhiites have been fairly supportive of this idea.


What next Delhi? I would suggest to build on the positives that dry run has delivered. While cars on the road alone aren't the reason for Delhi's poisonous air, there is no debate that they too are large contributors to it.
 For a start, I would want Delhi to continue with this arrangement.I would want the Delhi govt. to fast track buying of more buses vide a transparent e-tendering process to augment its fleet and services.I would suggest a subsidy to commercial establishments and educational institutions while procuring buses to transport its employees and students.Continue to encourage public participation by car pooling beyond photo ops.Crack down on violators not only by way of fines but also suspending/revoking driving licenses.Crack down on cabs/taxi/rickshaw services who are indulging in fleecing customers by either refusing rides, overcharging or both. It is going to be a long haul and the Delhi govt will face many a hurdle while trying to doing this. Fortunately the citizens have shown that they would back the initiative implemented with sincerity. Fortunately again for Delhi govt. they wouldn't be facing the ballot box anytime soon.

However I have this strong feeling that the situation might not pan out as I hope it should. Instead I fear this is likely to end in the same kneejerk fashion it started with. Once the data will out that as feared the pollution levels did not listen to the Delhi Govt's dictum and reduce itself to tolerable levels, the plan will be ditched unceremoniously.Committees will be set up to study what else needs to be done to reduce the fuming air quality of Delhi, with no deadlines.While in search of a comprehensive policy to fight pollution, the benefits of the baby steps will be sacrificed at the altar of popular pressure.


Assuming the OddEvenFormula continues beyond the trial period, I expect Delhi Govt to bestow licenses left right and centre for putting more cabs/rickshaws on the roads. How is one passenger in a cab less polluting than the same man in his own car better? Beats me!
Reinforcing the public transport is likely to be reduced to a very public tu-tu-main-main over lack of funds and how the “hostile” federal  govt  is sabotaging the local Delhi Govt. by not footing the bill for buying more buses.
The overstretched Metro Rail network would be accused of deliberately reducing its services to show the Delhi Govt in poor light. 
A well timed strike by the Cabs companies and Rickshawallahs against "police highhandedness" will throw life out of gear.
And all will be back to square one. And the Delhi Govt will move over to the slew of elections that are due this year. Or the next case of intolerance. Or the next case of allegations on the "corruption" in Delhi Hockey or Kabaddi or KhoKho or Stapu or Pitthu Federation or........

Pollution? Modi is responsible!

Or till the next stricture from the courts!

PS: I sincerely pray what happens is what should but I am willing to wager what will happen will happen. Will eat my words if what should happen happens and not what will happen!

Jugaad : An Indian slang for innovative ways to beat the system.
tu-tu-main-main : Verbal cockfights over an issue

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