A euphoric Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who car-pooled to work today, praised citizens of Delhi for helping make his odd-even road rationing plan a "success" on the first day it was rolled out as trial for a roadmap on cleaning up the air of the city.
"Delhi has done it! Reports so far are very encouraging. Delhiites, you give me hope that you are capable of achieving big challenges," Kejriwal tweeted on Friday, January 1 -- the day when vehicles with odd number plates are allowed to ply in the city.
Delhi has done it! Reports so far v encouraging. Delhiites! U give me hope that U are capable of achieving big challenges— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 1, 2016
Am pooling my car n going to office with 2 ministers, my PS and my Joint Secy— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 1, 2016
Kejriwal said the pilot initiative of the Aam Aadmi Party government has turned "into a movement". The Chief Minister said that as per initial reports, the plan has been "quite successful" and people in the national capital have largely accepted the restrictions with an "open mind".
"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 way to the rest of the country," Kejriwal told reporters outside his residence.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who reached the Secretariat on his official car bearing odd-number registration plate, echoed the Chief Minister's observation saying that people have adopted the initiative as their "own mission". "And government is merely assisting them. So this is the ideal situation," Sisodia said.
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. Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra reached the Secretariat on his two-wheeler at around 9 AM and tweeted, "Wow Delhi Thank you for making #OddEvenFormula a success...just reached office on bike.. no traffic.. Delhi is following it voluntarily."
Thank You Delhi #IamWithOddEvenJanuary 1, 2016
Two-wheelers are included in the list of 25 categories that have been kept out of the ambit of the scheme.
As the first day of 2016 dawned bright and clear, Delhi, which has one of the dirtiest airs in the world, took its fight against emission to the streets. Delhi government, with the help of traffic police, had on Thursday conducted a rehearsal ahead of the roll out of the scheme and hundreds of civil defence volunteers were seen assisting police teams in several parts of the city.
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.
Even as the scheme was unveiled, the air quality continued to remain very poor with areas of the city including the Delhi Secretariat complex recording severe level of pollutants in real time. An additional 3,000 buses have been deployed in the city as part of efforts to augment public transport. The metro has also decided to run 70 extra trips.
However, the real test of the scheme's effectiveness will be tested on Monday 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.
Delhi Police Chief BS Bassi once again appealed to people to follow the restrictions.
"I appeal to people to cooperate with Delhi Traffic Police for 15 days," he said, adding that adequate personnel have been deployed for implementation of the scheme throughout the city. He said "today's focus will largely be on educating people about the scheme. However, prosecution for violating the same shall be at place."
At certain areas, police fined violators while volunteers and civil defence personnel offered people roses to persuade them to stick to the odd-even plan.
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 respective safety limits are 60 and 100 micrograms for the two and prolonged exposure to anything beyond that can harm the respiratory system. Air quality is considered 'severe' by Indian authorities when the level of PM 2.5 breaches the 250 mark.
The first prosecution for violating the restrictions odd-even scheme took place at ITO junction around 33 minutes after the restrictions were implemented this morning. While being imposed with the Rs 2,000 penalty, the offender told the police that he was heading towards his office and there was no convenient transport facility from Pari Chowk, the intersection between NOIDA and Greater NOIDA, which is close to his residence, said a senior traffic official.
Despite assurance from the government, apprehensions remained among the citizens on alternative ways to commute.
"I support the initiative but without adequate public transport, I fear, there is chaos ahead," Greater Kailash resident Virender Sharma told the Times of India. Surge pricing for taxis, unreliability of auto-rickshaws, and unfamiliarity with car-pooling may pose as roadblocks for thousands of commuters who will be forced to leave their cars at home on odd and even days based on the registration plates.
The government has issued two helplines - 011-42400400 and 011-41400400 - for people to register their complaints and suggestion in connection with the scheme.
Here's how Twitter's helping.
On its blog, it posted this message: "Starting today, they (Delhi residents) can also use Twitter to access real-time information about public transport to plan their travel routes. As the odd-even car-driving scheme starts on 1 January 2016, the public’s reliance on public transportation will increase, so Twitter is working with the Delhi government to ensure that citizens have the live information they need to travel more conveniently and safely throughout the city every day."
How to use Twitter to navigate Delhi:
Tweet your origin and destination to @TransportDelhi and you’ll get real-time information on shortest routes, options of public transport available between these two points, fare details, traffic situation, and current weather conditions. If you want to keep your location & travel details private you can send a Direct Message to @TransportDelhi and receive the information privately.
#PollutionFreeDelhi origin to destination.
The Supreme Court had released a slew of measures to help clean up the Delhi air. The court not only banned the registration of diesel-run sport utility vehicles (SUV) and cars with 2000 cc engines in Delhi and NCR, it also set a March, 2016 deadline for all taxis to convert to CNG. It raised by 100 per cent the green cess being levied on commercial vehicles entering Delhi and those that are not Delhi bound will not enter the national capital through NH-8 and NH-1 as it has been found that these vehicles are one of the major sources of emissions.
(With PTI inputs)
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