Monday, May 20, 2019

Delhi Odd:Even Plan


Policy making in India reminds me of a particular method used in mathematics called “Trial & Error”. Though, I fail to understand why, if there is a ban on certain animal testing or even human testing for research then why not for policies? 

Yes, I am talking about the famous “Odd-Even” Scheme rolled out by the CM of Delhi. I do hope it is successful but my rational methods of arriving at definitives hint at a more probable outcome of it failing to achieve its desired purpose.

Any policy has a purpose, that it wants to achieve. The success of any policy depends upon a clearly defined purpose that it aims at achieving in a given span of time. Policy making has become a scientific process over the last few years. One of the key contributing factors that led to this shift is perhaps the availability of data and computers that have made advanced analytics an important tool, when it comes at policy making. It is important to define a purpose and then take decisions to logically achieve to the desired outcome. It is just like deriving a result in mathematics. Thus, what I mean is that there is an important need for a connect between the purpose of the policy and the details of the policy.

I don’t clearly follow the desired outcome of the “Odd-Even” policy. I don’t understand whether it aims at curbing pollution or traffic. Also, what I completely do not understand is how can there be a policy for 15 days? I mean, are we going to make policies for such a short period of time? Policy needs to be the consistent, predictable, logical and long term in nature. The manner in which the policy is rolled out is also a cause of concern, after all, why is there an announcement of pthe olicy before the fine print of the policy is even discussed by the Delhi government? It looks to me like a classic case of “We need to do something, anything” sort of a measure. It looks to me like playing to the galleries but policy should not be formed like this.

The problem is that our infrastructure is not capable to sustain such amounts of people using our public transportation system. Perhaps, it would have been better to give a few months notice and to enhance the capacity of our transit system before implementation of such a measure. Also, how can the government dictate people to carpool? Is that not an infringement on our personal choices? Where are all the “intellectuals” now? Government can incentivise carpooling but forcing it does seem absurd.

The environmentalists will probably say that this is a harsh step that needs to be taken to protect the environment. But seriously,

  • Has the government done any study to see the effects of pollution caused from vehicular movements?
  • If yes then has the government bifurcated the data to do a further study on the pollution caused by diesel and gasoline vehicles respectively?
  • Has the government then segregated the data on the basis of commercial and non-commercial vehicle?
  • Has the government then further segregated the data for non-commercial vehicles to two-wheelers and four wheelers?
They have done none of it, yet they claim that it will help curb pollution. Think again, what causes more pollution, private cars or commercial cars?
They have allowed two wheelers to drive and kept them out of the policy but on what basis? If it is because of the size of the engine, then they need to provide empirical evidence suggesting that the total pollution caused by all such smaller sized engine vehicles collectively is significantly lesser than the ones caused by four wheelers.
They have come out with several other exemptions to this policy. These exemptions leave out probably most of the people while it targets out a carefully selected audience. This policy is discriminatory in nature. Factor in the high income of most people who will be effected by this policy and you will realise that most of them can easily afford another car with a different number plate (Only if this is a long term policy). So how, will this policy achieve the desired result?
This policy, will cause inconvenience to many and will have no significant impact because most of the cars that actually pollute are exempted (commercial). I also fail to understand why the “intellectuals” are in support of such a move? I mean, doing something just for the sake of doing something is outlandishly stupid and immature. “Something is better than nothing” does not work in policy decisions. It never has, it never should. After all, policies are made for not just one generation as it impacts the generations that are yet to come.
Environment is important and there is an immediate need to address this challenge now, more than ever before (if we want to save our planet). I agree, but how do I make myself to agree with a policy that will have no significant impact on pollution but cause inconvenience to close to a million people.
The best way to tackle the issue would have been-
  • Analysing the causes of pollutions and categorising them into groups depending upon their significance.
  • Study to analyse the cause of pollution by each such group and breaking the groups further down to see the effect each component of a group has on pollution levels.
  • Having a green cess, to be utilised only for plantation of plants in the region to purify air. The amount of cess on vehicles should be directly related to the share of pollutants released by the class of the vehicle based on its engine size.
  • Banning commercial transit vehicles and re-routing them which have engines above a particular capacity which are known and proved to cause pollution above a desirable limit.
  • Incentivising car-pooling and expanding public transit systems and incentivising people to use it. Making zones such as people take their vehicles to a zone, park it there and use public transportation to reach their destinations. (This is a long-term policy and can not be forced on people as it is being done right now)
  • Spending on research and development of alternative fuels and working on using ethanol mix etc that can be used in existing vehicles safely.
  • Development of the banks of Yamuna as a Green Corridor.
  • Long term planning for future risks of an increase in pollution levels due to several unknown factors.
Once such a study is done, it might be found that a major cause of pollutants is construction activity and in vehicles, commercial vehicles might be more polluting than private. The total pollution by two wheelers collectively might also outweigh the pollution by private four wheelers because of the large numbers of two wheelers.
Such a study would then enable policy makers to take informed decisions and tackle the problem in a wise manner. Environment is important, if only our government understands it and stops playing to the galleries and so called “intellectuals” and “environmentalists”.
It is high time we save our eco-system and stop playing politics on this issue.

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