Delhi chokes up every year, what is the govt doing? asks SC

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, odd-even scheme, Air pollution, BJP government, Congress, Assembly polls, AAP, DMRC,
An aerial view of New Delhi covered in smog. Photo: PTI.

Taking note of the severe air pollution that has taken Delhi-NCR in its grip, the Supreme Court on Monday (November 4) slammed authorities for failing to curb the pollution rate and said they have left people to die.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta took serious note of crop burning in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh and said it cannot go unabated every year. “Can we survive in this atmosphere? This is not the way we can survive,” the bench said.

“Delhi is choking every year and we are not able to do anything. Question is that every year this is happening,” the bench said, adding, “It cannot be done in a civilised country”. The bench was told by senior advocate Aparajita Singh, who is assisting the apex court as an amicus curiae in the air pollution matter, that as per the Centre’s affidavit crop burning has gone up by 7 per cent in Punjab and is down by 17 per cent in Haryana. The bench called the pollution in Delhi-NCR as atrocious and said no one is safe even inside homes.

Earlier, the Arvind Kejriwal government began the third edition of its odd-even scheme to tackle the severe air pollution in the national capital. The scheme would go on till November 15 under which vehicles with registration numbers ending with odd and even digits will be allowed to operate on alternate days.

Within hours of the odd-even scheme kicking in on Monday, the national capital began witnessing politicking over the move with BJP leader Vijay Goel snubbing the measure before driving a car with an odd number. He also was fined for the same.

Terming the move a gimmick, he said, “This scheme is just a gimmick, Delhi government themselves say pollution is due to stubble burning, then how does this scheme help? I am ready to pay the fine for violation.”

The rule will be applicable from 8 am to 8 pm, except on Sundays and will be in place till November 15. The scheme, which was introduced in the year 2016, is a road rationing system where vehicles with odd and even registration numbers are allowed to ply on alternate days.

In a press conference, Delhi chief minister Aravind Kejriwal said, “The pollution level in Delhi has risen to severe levels. The Delhi government along with the citizens in Delhi are trying our best to combat the issue. Stubble burning is still an issue, but that’s is not in the Delhi government’s hands. Whatever can be done from here will be done and taken care. Today, odd-even policy has come into existence. There are about 30 lakh vehicles in Delhi. According to odd-even policy, 15 lakh vehicles will not be polluting, that is 50 per cent lesser pollution due to vehicles will be observed. I thank the people of Delhi for their cooperation.”

Two drivers have been fined already on Monday morning for driving vehicles with odd-numbered license plates. One of the drivers, who said he lived in Noida, stated that he had come for some work last night. He claimed he was not aware of the fact that the odd-even scheme was coming into effect from today, according to ANI.

Vehicle with registration numbers ending with odd digits 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 shouldn’t run on November 4, 6, 8, 12 and 14. Similarly, vehicles with registration numbers ending with even digits 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 should not run on the roads on November 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15.

Kejriwal appealed to people to follow the rule for the sake of their children and the city. He has also asked the government machinery to ensure that no person faces inconvenience due to the restrictions.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have blamed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for the air pollution crisis and termed the odd-even scheme as a stunt by the ruling regime with an eye on the Assembly polls due early next year.

The government has decided to bring back the scheme as toxic smog has been taking a toll on residents since Diwali.

Also read: Schools shut, flights diverted, odd even on as Delhi air quality hits 625

The pollution levels in New Delhi on Monday morning stood at 439, which falls in the severe category on the AQI (Air Quality Index).

The Delhi government has exempted two-wheelers from the odd-even scheme, but not CNG-driven vehicles. Twenty-nine categories of vehicles, including those of the President, Prime Minister, emergency and enforcement vehicles, have been exempted. However, the vehicles of the Delhi chief minister and ministers will not be exempted.

Hourly forecast in Delhi

“Women driving alone, cars having all women as occupants and women accompanied by children aged less than 12 years will be exempted, said Arvind Kejriwal. “Delhi government will allow vehicles used for medical emergencies and private vehicles carrying school children,” he added.

The government announced schools in the capital would be shut till Tuesday (November 5). The city airport authorities said 32 flights were diverted on Sunday due to reduced visibility.

Also read: Ola, Uber to deactivate surge pricing during odd-even scheme in Delhi

If anyone violates the odd-even rule, a fine of ₹4,000 would be charged. Earlier, the penalty was ₹2,000. The price hike was suggested by the transport department based on the revised Motor Vehicle Act.

Private cabs services such as Ola and Uber said that they will deactivate surge pricing during the 11-day rule. During those 11 days, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will conduct 61 additional trips.

Hundreds of teams of Delhi Traffic Police and the transport and revenue departments have been deployed for strict implementation of the odd-even scheme. Around 400 traffic inspectors and assistant traffic inspectors (ATIs) of the DTC and the transport department and around 5,000 civil defence volunteers will be deployed in two shifts during the drive.