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Odd-even ends, Kejriwal calls it a success

The fortnight-long odd-even campaign to curb traffic in Delhi to battle air pollution ended on Friday night.

New Delhi: The fortnight-long odd-even campaign to curb traffic in Delhi to battle air pollution ended on Friday night, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying it succeeded in more ways than one.

And just hours before the unique January 1-15 scheme ended amid conflicting claims, Kejriwal urged Delhiites to continue it voluntarily "if you can".

Under the scheme, four-wheelers with odd and even registration numbers plied in Delhi - a city where cars account for nearly a third of its about 90 lakh registered vehicles - on alternate dates. 

Despite claims from experts to the contrary, Kejriwal said pollution levels did drop during this period. More importantly, the city's otherwise perennially clogged roads became easier to navigate.

"We received overwhelming support for the odd-even plan," the Aam Aadmi Party leader told the media. "It was personally overwhelming."

"People started saying that they had begun to car pool and were spending far less time on the roads. It looked as if Delhi's roads had been cleared of traffic congestion."

Many took to commuting by Delhi Metro and found they could save money too, he said.

Air pollution declined by 20-25 percent in the capital during the January 1-15 period, Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said.

He said air samples collected by around 20 mobile teams of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee from different locations showed that pollution levels in inner Delhi areas had gone down. 

"In inner Delhi, the average PM 2.5 level was around 300 micrograms/m3. However, it remained around 400 micrograms/m3 in border areas," he added.

The odd-even scheme was application on all days except Sundays, and was in operation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Several categories were exempt from the scheme including a string of VIPs, women drivers, emergency services and CNG-operated transport.

Kejriwal specially thanked Delhi High Court and Supreme Court judges who pooled cars to follow the odd-even scheme although they had been exempted.

He also thanked Delhi Police, which administratively doesn't report to him but backed the plan all through the 15 days.

Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander said the campaign succeeded due to many reasons.

"There was self discipline (on the part of people), good publicity was given to the programme, the Rs.2,000 fine deterred possible violators, and its enforcement was strict," Chander told IANS. 

Police admit there were far fewer violations of the odd-even plan than most people had expected. A total of 9,151 challans were issued to erring motorists -- a small number compared to Delhi's vehicular population.

Chief Minister Kejriwal urged the people of Delhi to keep following the odd-even formula voluntarily from Saturday "if you can do it". He reasoned why: "It is a question of our health, our children's health, our city."

He said most people, including those who were inconvenienced, admitted that the odd-even curbs hugely restricted the total traffic on the roads, making commuting a pleasant experience.

Meanwhile, a survey report said that overall public support for the odd-even initiative was 4.5 times more than the opposition it faced.

Some 54 percent of over 12,500 people polled wanted it to continue, while 21 percent voted against it, said the report released on Friday. 

The Delhi government is expected to hold a meeting on Monday to review the outcome of the odd-even scheme.