New Delhi: Delhi on Friday witnessed introduction of the odd-even scheme, an unprecedented anti-pollution measure in India's history, that led to major cut in volume of cars on the city's streets with AAP government claiming that the radical initiative has received widespread acceptance.
As the clock struck eight in the morning, the restriction on plying of private cars came into effect with thousands of traffic police personnel and government officials assisted by volunteers fanning across the city to enforce the pilot plan which will stay in force till January 15. "I am truly overwhelmed by the response.
People have achieved the impossible. I am sure Delhi will show the way," said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, adding the initiative has turned "into a movement".
In a tweet he also used legendary singer John Lennon's words from his iconic song Imagine, "You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us." As many as 25 categories were given exemptions from the restrictions which included emergency service vehicles, taxis and cars being driven by women even with female co-passengers and children up to age of 12.
Two wheelers and CNG-run vehicles have also been exempted. Under the scheme, private cars having odd registration numbers are being allowed to ply on odd dates and those with even numbers on even dates. The restriction period is 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those caught violating the scheme have to pay a penalty of Rs 2000.
As many as 200 teams of Traffic Police, 66 enforcement teams of transport department and 40 teams of sub-divisional magistrates were deployed across the city to ensure strict implementation of the scheme.
Pollutants dipped by around 10 per cent on average between 8 AM to 2 PM today compared to the last two days, "possibly" due to the odd-even restrictions, before rising sharply afterwards with a fall in day time temperature. As per initial observations of System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the gains of less vehicular emissions could have been more, had there been less vehicular movement and no bursting of firecrackers on the night of January 31.
To augment, public transport, an additional 3,000 buses were deployed in the city while metro had run an additional 70 trips. Delhi's Transport Minister Gopal Rai said "We thank people of Delhi for making the scheme a success on the first day. The same Delhi, which was called selfish, has shown the way. We thank all people for choosing their children's health."
The government has challaned 66 autorickshaw drivers on the basis of complaints received by the a helpline launched yesterday to ensure citizens do not face any hurdles in commuting. Till evening, Traffic Police issued 81 challans against motorists violating the scheme.
Rai even said people have responded to environment- friendly drive the same way they came out to the streets during the anti-corruption movement three years ago.
"That time people of Delhi wanted a corruption-free city. Now they want a pollution-free city." The Chief Minister said the scheme will not be permanently implemented and made it clear that it may be enforced periodically when pollution level spikes. He accused the Centre of trying to sabotage the scheme on the eve of its implementation by instigating the strike by bureaucrats.
"I repeatedly said that the scheme will meet with success only when people embrace it and not though force. It has become a movement and we are truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far.
"Delhi will show the way to the rest of the country," Kejriwal told reporters outside his residence. However, the real test of the scheme's effectiveness will be on Moday as a number of private offices are closed today.
Also the schools are having winter vacation, which would have taken off some load from the traffic. Kejriwal shared his car to the Secretariat with transport Minister Gopal Rai and Health Minister Satyender Jain.
They live in North Delhi's Civil Lines area. Social Welfare minister of Delhi government Sandeep Kumar took a bus to reach Secretariat while his colleague and Environment and Forest minister Imran Hussain arrived in an e-rickshaw. At certain areas, volunteers and civil defence personnel offered people roses prodding them politely. Display boards were installed at several areas across Delhi to provide the real-time figures of air quality.
One such board outside Delhi Secretariat read suspended particulate matter PM 2.5 and PM 10 at 360 and 480 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively, at 9.30 AM, several times above the safe limits. The Delhi Metro said no substantial jump in ridership was observed. The total ridership stood at 19.8 lakh at 8 PM as against the average daily ridership of around 27 lakh.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay criticised the ruling AAP saying there were "practical problems" in implementation of the scheme. The Delhi Congress chose not to react saying it will comment after 15 days when the pilot plan will get over.