29/04/2016 1:47 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Forget Pollution, The Odd-Even Idea Could Save Taxpayers Money And Change India

The odd-even car rationing scheme, introduced by Delhi's AAP government in the first fortnight of January this year to reduce pollution, is considered to be one of the most progressive public policy engagements by any state government in India. The scheme was launched with a massive awareness programme and was accepted, in general, wholeheartedly by the people of Delhi. The data collected by environmental agencies during the first phase of the experiment revealed that the pollution levels in the city were somewhat reduced and the vehicular congestion on roads had also eased. The spin doctors of the AAP government, of course, unleashed a publicity blitzkrieg congratulating the party as well as the citizens of Delhi.

With the odd-even scheme, parliamentary business can be done on alternate days, thus saving the high costs of maintaining legislative infrastructure.

However, expert analyses after Phase I of the scheme revealed that vehicular emissions from private cars are just the tip of the pollution iceberg in Delhi. The main contributors are commercial diesel vehicles, industrial pollutants, dust pollution at construction sites and smoke from burning garbage in the city. In addition, the odd-even scheme led to renewed focus on the inadequacies of the public transportation system in Delhi--not enough buses, frequent breakdowns, a Metro struggling to cope with surging demands, unscrupulous auto and taxi drivers, the pitiable state of connectivity in feeder routes.

The 15-day experiment was challenged in the Delhi High Court where the government promised to rectify the flaws and augment the public transport system in a systematic manner before deciding whether the odd-even scheme would be reintroduced in a phased on permanent basis. However, just as citizens recovered from the commuting hardships they had endured, the AAP government out of the blue announced that the odd-even scheme would again be introduced in the first fortnight of April 2016.

Phase II of the car rationing scheme (which is currently underway) ran into rough weather since its inception as it was done hurriedly without any groundwork. The Delhi government has failed to add a single bus under DTC, the list of exemptions has increased and the support of the people has decreased.

The government has done nothing to curb or regulate the main contributors to the pollution and it seems to be in a propaganda drive to earn brownie points. It thus becomes imperative to find out the logic of launching the car rationing system in Delhi within the paradigm of politics.

An odd-even day scheme of amnesty for those involved in corruption is the best way to curb pilferage from the state exchequer...

The AAP, which had its origins in the people's movement against corruption, was catapulted to power in Delhi in a short span after a landslide electoral victory. The party started its innings on the right note by subsidizing electricity and making water supply almost free. However, soon fissures within the party erupted in a public display of acrimony between the camps of Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav and allegations that the Chief Minister did not follow his own publically declared principles of democracy and transparency within the party. Then followed a series of tussles with the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor, as well as a slew of scandals involving party leaders, including charges of domestic violence, inciting violence against foreigners, sexual harassment and using fake degrees.

At this juncture, the odd-even car rationing scheme provided AAP with the right propaganda tool to tide over the credibility crisis. The first phase of the odd-even rule may have arrested the declining reliability of AAP but whether it succeeded or failed will be tested in the municipal elections to be held on Delhi soon.

Now while the future of the odd-even formula to beat pollution and congestion in Delhi roads will be decided by judicial activism, the idea itself has several other applications that could go a long way in saving the money of India's long-suffering taxpayers.

To begin with, the odd-even scheme can be applied in the central and state legislatures, which in recent times have witnessed frequent disruptions in their proceedings. With this scheme in place, parliamentary business can be done on alternate days in every session, thus saving the high costs of maintaining legislative infrastructure.

The odd-even formula, if it catches the imagination of policymakers and is implemented judiciously, could be a quick fix solution for solving myriad problems...

Secondly, the central and state governments spend a huge amount of money from the public exchequer on publicity and propaganda of policies and schemes launched by them. This could be easily done on odd-even days or weeks. This will save a large amount of taxpayers' money which could be used in public welfare programmes instead. A side benefit to leaders would be that the public might be more kindly disposed towards them since they won't be fatigued by seeing their ministers beaming at them from newspapers day in and day out.

The odd-even formula could also be used in curbing corruption, a problem so deep-rooted that the fight against it looks like a losing battle. An odd-even day scheme of amnesty for those involved in corruption is the best way to curb pilferage from the state exchequer and would be a win-win situation for both the state and its corrupt citizens.

The idea could also be implemented in government offices, where employees could work on odd-even days. This would not only save office overheads but also lead to less fuel consumption and environmental pollution.

The odd-even formula, if it catches the imagination of policymakers and is implemented judiciously, could be a quick fix solution for solving the myriad problems in India.