New Delhi: The Delhi government on Thursday unveiled its ambitious traffic rationing plan to combat rising pollution, but greens were unhappy over the exemption given to 25 categories of motorists including women drivers, bikers, emergency vehicles and a host of VIPs.
The odd-even formula will be tried out for 15 days from January 1 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. except on Sundays, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said. It will also apply to vehicles entering Delhi from other states.
Enviromentalists expressed dismay over the large number of exemptions, saying this will derail the scheme. But others lauded the initiative while admitting it will cause inconvenience to motorists.
Officials said the scheme will be applicable only to cars, which form almost a third of the capital's nearly nine million vehicles -- a situation that has taken Delhi's air pollution to alarming levels.
Cars with odd registration numbers will be allowed to ply only on odd dates (January 1, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15) and those with even registration numbers on even dates (January 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 14). Sundays (January 3 and 10) will be restriction free.
Kejriwal said the policy incorporated suggestions from the judiciary and the union home ministry as well as experts.
"We appeal to residents of Delhi to make this odd-even plan a success so as to reduce air pollution which has assumed alarming proportions," he said.
"Without people's support, this will not be successful," he added. "We are doing this for our children, for our future, for our environment."
"Women drivers or women with children below 12 years will be exempted from the odd-even formula," he said. Those going to hospitals for medical emergency too will be exempted -- if they show proof.
Greens were particularly unhappy over the blanket exemption given to the some 50 lakh two-wheelers.
Vikrant Tongad, with the Delhi-based Social Action for Forest and Environment, told IANS: "This is a good initiative but it won't suffice. It will be of very less benefit as many vehicles are being exempted. The restrictions are not enough as trucks and bikes are major sources of pollution."
Priyansh Joshi, who lives in south Delhi, said he will quickly get his bike repaired. "Why not do it for the environment?"
But Ajay Gautam, a resident of Mayur Vihar in east Delhi, had another worry. "Because of this, there will be more crowds in Delhi Metro and pickpocketing will go up."
The Delhi government decided to radically cut the number of cars on the roads after repeated warnings from the judiciary on soaring pollution. The Delhi High Court said the city had become akin to a "gas chamber".
Kejriwal said he and his ministers will abide by the restrictions but these won't apply to the president, vice president, prime minister, governors, Supreme Court judges, central ministers, chief ministers of states other than Delhi, diplomats as well as ambulances and police and fire service vehicles.
Cars and other vehicles propelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) too will be exempted and those ferrying physically-challenged people.
Kejriwal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appeal to his ministers to support the plan. He sought help from Delhi Police to make the scheme a success.
The chief minister admitted that the public transport was not adequate to cope with the numbers who would have to leave their cars behind and urged motorists to go for car pooling.
About 4,000-5,000 additional buses and 10,000 new auto-rickshaws will be added to the public transport, he said. Delhi Metro train frequency will be raised.
Violators would be fined Rs.2,000, Kejriwal said.