The year 2016 started on a different note for Delhiites. As the clock struck eight on a New Year morning, the odd-even plan of the Delhi government came into light. The govt’s knee-jerk policy to implement this unconventional car rationing formula had left Delhiites perplexed and Twitterati with new fodder for jokes and some interesting but confusing questions, like if I go out to a friend’s party in a car that has even number plate and returns post-midnight, will I be caught by the police for not following this system? While some called it an impractical decision, others battled for it, saying any effort to curb pollution should be tried out. From using fake number plates to buying a new car, Delhi people had already thought about jugaad. While Mr. Kejriwal declared this 15-day trial period of the rationing system a success, some experts remained skeptical about its effect on improving the city’s air quality.
Now when the Delhi Government’s road rationing scheme is again in force from April 15 to 30, we decide to do an in-depth analysis to unravel the strands here.
Odd-even scheme: Top key takeaways
· For 15 days, odd-numbered cars will be allowed on roads on odd dates and even-numbered cars will run on even dates from 8 am to 8 pm
· The scheme will be implemented based on the last digit of the vehicle’s number plate
· On Sunday, there will be an exemption, and all cars will be allowed to ply on the road
· Women, VIPs, CNG cars, two-wheelers and vehicles used for a medical emergency have been exempted from this scheme
· The scheme will be applicable on cars coming to Delhi from other regions
Where did it come from?
This system was first adopted by Beijing in 2008, just before the summer Olympics. Earlier, it was temporary, but soon, it turned out to be so successful that it was made permanent. On the global front, countries such as France and Colombia have also implemented this road-rationing rule. In fact, this road-rationing technique dates as far back as the Roman age, and none other than Julius Caesar had enforced it.
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What made Mr. Kejriwal take such a step?
In the last few years, Delhi’s air quality has declined rapidly. Observing that the air pollution levels in Delhi have dropped drastically and it was akin to “living in a gas chamber,” the Delhi High Court directed both Centre and State governments to come up with comprehensive plans to curb the city’s alarming pollution level.
According to Delhi Economic Survey, the vehicular population in Delhi has seen a 6% rise. In 2014-15, there were 88.27 lakhs vehicles, including 27,90,566 cars and jeeps, compared to 82.58 lakhs in 2013-14.
As per the recent air quality monitoring survey released by Greenpeace, Delhi’s air quality is the most toxic air in the world due to high concentration of deadly PM (Particulate Matter) 2.5 levels, which are 10 times higher than the safety limit as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, nearly 32,000 people in Delhi will solely die due to air pollution by 2025.
According to a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Delhi will record the world’s largest number of premature deaths annually due to high pollution levels.
What does an odd-even scheme mean for insurance?
Due to the odd-even scheme, there might be a reduction in car insurance policy premium as risks from a vehicle’s usage would come down. As cars would be out in the street only for half the number of days, it may help to lower the risks of accidents. Mr. Sanjay Datta, chief of underwriting and claims at ICICI Lombard, with the minimum usage of cars, risks for vehicle owners and insurance companies would also come down. However, considering the frequency of car insurance claims, there is no substantial proof to validate that only good drivers will be on roads. Also, due to light traffic, there may be a situation of over-speeding, which may also lead to more accidents.
In this situation, insurers may also plan to implement Usage-Based Insurance Premium (PAYD-Pay as you drive), which is prevalent in countries such as Japan and America. For the PAYD scheme to work, insurers will ask customers to shell out an advance premium based on the distance they are likely to cover during the policy’s tenure. The insurer will install a black box gadget in a car which will help to track the actual distance covered. After a year, a policyholder will either be asked to pay an extra premium if he has driven more, or the insurer may refund the extra premium or adjust the amount in the next year’s cover. In case of an accident during the policy tenure, the insurer will settle the claim.
This odd-even scheme will impact personal accident covers for passengers in the case of insured vehicles. Though all comprehensive insurance policies cover drivers, the demand for additional personal accident cover for passengers may increase in the case of carpooling. At present, the insurance premium is primarily based on the usage—private and commercial usage. Overall, insurers will need to look at outcomes to adjust premiums accordingly closely.
If not the odd-even rule, then what?
Left to me, I would perhaps advocate for far stricter conditions than just the odd-even system. There are various things which we can do to curb air pollution in Delhi, such as:
· Car-pooling is a great way to keep both Mother Nature and our pocket happy. The administration should also reward people who do car-pooling
· Do away with so many exemptions in the odd-even system. It is good to see a high percentage of people following this rule; exemptions leave the room for misuse
· Promote electric cars and taxis on roads. Further, the government should reduce excise duties on these cars and reward their users by giving freebies, such as free parking
· Increase the number of buses on roads so that more people use them for commuting
· Set up bike stations that let you pick a bike from station A and drop it at station B. Make sure these stations offer services either at free of cost or charge nominal fees
· It has been seen that construction dust is one of the major determinants of air pollution in Delhi
· Builders should take steps to ensure that construction dust does not fly around. They either keep the surrounding clear or wet
While opposition parties have their own views, Kejriwal’s government deserves all credit for launching such type of scheme. If nothing else, it highlights the poor state of Delhi’s air pollution. This experiment has kicked off an avalanche of discussion on pollution, city transport system, respiratory ailments, government initiatives, and so on. In fact, these discussions are not limited to Delhi only. People in other parts of the country have also come forward. Even, governments of Bengaluru and Mumbai are planning to replicate the same system in their own states. All of this would succeed only if we ourselves recognize the gravity of the situation and take things into our own hands. Bans are not a sign of a good economy. Be it a ban on films, books or ban on even-numbered cars on odd-days. Instead of this, the government should use nudges and incentives to encourage its citizens.