Kejriwal government’s move to restrict the plying of private vehicles on the road of Delhi in order to curb severe pollution level has evoked a sharp response, with political opponents questioning the move. On Friday, the state government of Delhi announced restriction of private vehicles bearing odd and even registration numbers to alternate days. The move is slated to come into effect from January 1, 2016. However, emergency services and public transport will not be under the ambit of the restriction.
The measures were announced following an emergency meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a day after the Delhi High Court compared the pollution level in the capital city to a “gas chamber”.
“From January 1, 2016, odd and even numbered vehicles will run on alternate days. Alternate arrangements are being made to bolster public transport. DTC buses, Metro services will ply extra. We are still working out the modalities,” Delhi Chief Secretary KK Sharma had told the press.
Sharma also apprised state government’s decision making Euro VI standards for vehicular emission mandatory for all vehicles from 2017, four years before the Centre’s scheduled introduction of the same. Besides, the Delhi state government also decided to shut down the Badarpur Thermal power station and will move the National Green Tribunal (NGT) demanding the shutting down of Dadri power plant, which falls in Uttar Pradesh.
The reactions and response began pouring in soon after the decision was announced.
While the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre accused Delhi government of doing an act of “one-upmanship”, the political opposition strongly criticised the move.
Taking a swipe at AAP-led Delhi government, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said such a measure can only be implemented if it does some ‘jaadu’ (magic) to launch Euro VI compliant vehicles by the stated date.
“I think this is one-upmanship. The central government has already notified to postpone to Euro VI migration by 2021 because ultimately it is the car manufacturers who also need to be ready with the cars compliant to this norm…. today we have vehicles complying to Euro IV or III. You can’t have it (Euro VI)…. If they have some factory and good idea to convert by some jaadu to Euro VI…all the best,” Prakash Javadekar said.
Ironically, the two traditional political opponents – Congress and BJP – were on the same page criticising the Kejriwal government’s decision. While the former termed it as “anti-people”, the latter dubbed it as “half-baked and knee-jerk”.
Claiming that AAP government’s decision was aimed at cheap publicity and will cause harassment to the common man, Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad said, “Kejriwal government practises gimmickry for cheap publicity. This is not practical and will harass the common man”.
While the BJP claimed that the move will create problems for self-employed people, doctors and advocates who need private cars for fast movement at a short notice and also for women who prefer the privacy of their cars in odd hours.
“A correct approach will be to think of a long-term solution involving every stake-holder,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said adding further that the public transport system in the national capital was already overburdened and not as efficient as in some western cities where such a decision was in force.
On the other hand, the decision got an immediate backing from the environment experts.
Sunita Narain supported the decision and said it should have been implemented immediately. “I will definitely like to welcome this,” she said.
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) expert Anumita Roychowdhary welcomed the proposals saying that time has come to take “drastic measures” and people need to support the initiative. She said similar initiatives have worked in places such as Beijing and Mexico city, which have also been grappling with high levels of pollution. “Some other cities like London and Stockholm have gone for congestion pricing instead,” she said.
Surprisingly, the move evoked a positive response from the BJP ruled municipal corporations, though they expressed reservations over the decision to shut down some parkings for traffic obstructions.
“If the Delhi Government shuts down any parking lot it should compensate the revenue loss or provide alternative parking facility,” South Delhi Mayor Subhash Arya said reacting to the move.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police today said that it was not consulted in connection with the proposal.
“Delhi Police has not been consulted for the concerned proposal. If the proposal ever comes to us, it shall be examined by the traffic department and further action will be taken only in public interest,” Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi told the press.
(With inputs from the PTI)