ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Needs To Be Done?

Cleaning the Air and Enabling Commuter Movement

This article suggests that the Delhi government needs to address deficiencies in the city's planning and design framework on which the public transport system rests before employing a policy like the odd-even scheme to achieve some degree of success in relieving congestion

The odd–even scheme is a system of road space rationing which mandates that on dates ending with an odd number, a car with a licence plate number ending with an odd digit is allowed to ply. Likewise, on dates ending with an even number, a licence plate number ending with an even digit is allowed to ply. Having previously been implemented in cities such as Milan, Bogota, Mexico City and Beijing (Down to Earth 2015), more recently, the scheme was introduced by the Delhi government on a trial-run basis between 1 and 15 January 2016. The objective was to combat air pollution levels in the city that had reached alarming proportions. In September 2015, the air pollution levels in the city were ten-times higher than the safety levels laid down by the World Health Organization (Greenpeace 2015).

Air quality assessments made using samples taken during the course of the odd–even experiment, and after, have thrown up mixed results. However, it was observed that congestion had markedly reduced in the same period (Sethi 2016). Given that the odd–even scheme was successful in relieving congestion, one is tempted to argue that the policy should have been employed to target congestion instead—an issue which has also been a major concern amongst policymakers and experts for a long time. It is important to add, however, that the policy was perceived as being successful in relieving congestion solely owing to the supporters’ emotional appeals (Bhatia 2016). When the odd–even scheme was implemented in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged citizens to carpool and make use of the public transport system. Such appeals cannot be expected to have any long-term effect. Research by Kinnick, Krugman and Cameron (1996) has shown that when the public is exposed to a message on a regular basis, the message loses its impact: the normalisation of the message leads to desensitising its audience, thereby reducing the message’s impact

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