Odd or Even? Why the Delhi plan is the dumbest thing ever!

So recently, the Delhi Government, announced that they were going to implement a new rule from January 1st 2016, which would allow vehicles with Odd and Even registrations to ply only on alternate days. Like the rest of the world, I think it is a dumb idea. The intention might be good, to reduce pollution, but the backlash this is going to have, is going to wreak havoc across not just the National Capital Territory, but also the National Capital Region.

Note: Many readers have complained that I have a bad perspective because I’m a Mumbaikar. Just to clarify, that in the period running up to the New Year and for the next two weeks, I was a resident of the National Capital Region, living in Gurgaon and traveling to Delhi every alternate day. I was subject to the Odd-Even Joomla for 12 out of 15 days.

Before, I go forward, I just want to remind you of two things:

  • This nonsensical proposal was planned for Mumbai by the AAP’s big brother Congress, over a decade ago. It got scrapped, and for a good reason.
  • This proposal apparently works well in China. People who support it forget one thing. China is not a Democracy.

Another point to add is that the aim of this whole system is to reduce pollution, not traffic on the roads. Using that as a metric to claim its success is not valid.

So, why would this be a problem?
Enforcement Issues

Enforcing this would be a major headache. With the exception of Gurgaon, the areas of the NCR surrounding Delhi, are contiguous territories. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, NOIDA and Delhi. Now, given that the Delhi Government, specifically the Delhi RTA, would have authority over only DL-registered vehicles, how will they stop other vehicles from plying? Delhi, by virtue of being a Union Territory, has lesser road taxes, so nobody would get a HR or UP registration to ply their vehicles. But how would they stop vehicles from other parts of the NCR from doing so? Especially since places like Faridabad and NOIDA don’t have that good public transport as Delhi!

Extra Load on Existing Infrastructure

This move will screw up the way people travel in Delhi. Delhiites love poking fun at Mumbaikars for the Suburban Rail, calling it smelly, overcrowded, and what not. There is a statement, “Darr ke aage Jeet Hai, aur Dadar ke aage Seat Hai”, which translates to “There is Victory ahead of Fear, and a Seat ahead of Dadar”. Atleast, the Suburban, by virtue of not being air-conditioned, has stale air being pumped out from inside the train. More importantly, we have Fast trains in Bombay. We don’t have to sit in a train from Churchgate to Virar stopping at every single station on its way. The Delhi Metro is worse than the Mumbai Suburban in terms of crowd. DMRCL often goofs up by running 6 car trains to Gurgaon and 4 car trains to Faridabad.

There is this video of officers pushing people into the train, where they are packed like sardines in a tin can so that the doors can close. I have seen people pushing each other inside and being stuffed in a similar manner in Gurgaon-bound trains. The Delhi public will not travel in the Ring Railway, thus making Metro the ONLY way to travel around for those who need to go long distances. The situation in the MMR cannot be compared because the MMR has multiple railway lines, one Metro line, plus one Monorail, plus the killer combination of BEST, TMT, NMMT. No matter how unethical NMMT and TMT are, they are far more efficient than the DTC and its new sibling the DIMTS. This will also push up the crowds in buses, which already crowded. Delhi buses are filthy cheap, and this makes it worse. With a reported 400 buses breaking down each day, this means that the government has to hire more buses, which is resulting in the steady comeback of Blueline buses.

EMERGENCY

What if I have an emergency, I need to get out of my house in a hurry? What if my office is in the other end of the city and I don’t a have a Metro line anywhere near me? What if someone in my house is sick and I need to take them to the Hospital? Rich or poor, I am not going to buy a new car. This move will also affect carpoolers. What if five people who carpool, rotating cars on a daily basis, all have Even-numbered registrations? What if all are Odd-numbered? Has this been considered? I don’t think so. This move will affect Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber massively.

Fake Number Plates

Back in 2005, the Central Government had amended Section 50(2)(d) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules [CMVR] to mandate the implementation of High Security Number plates. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2011. These plates had security features such as a Hologram, could NOT be tampered-with and had to be fixed by an officer of the RTO only. So far only a handful of states including Sikkim, Goa, Gujarat, have implemented it. Anyone can duplicate number plates and change it daily. This is going to give a new boost to these fake number plate manufacturers however.

Priorities

Noble or not, the Delhi government has got its priorities wrong. Massively.

If the state government is seriously interested in reducing air pollution, it needs to start coordinating with the Centre, and other States in the NCR to find a long term solution to tackle the issue. The NCT is super congested, and banning certain vehicles on certain days is going to compound the issue rather than solve the problem. Delhi’s AC buses are already pathetic, and this is going to render them useless. Better public transport, and better connectivity, is what will show results, filling pockets of autowallahs who don’t charge per the meter won’t. Further, the ban on Surge Pricing for Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola is worsening the situation, causing a lack of cabs in places that require them and letting the Auto mafia rule.

In 1989, Mexico City implemented a similar plan. The net result? People stopped using Public Transport. Yes, they stopped using public transport.

Exemptions

Recently, the Delhi government announced a few exemptions. Among them are:

  • All two wheelers
  • CNG Vehicles
  • Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
  • Women Drivers with a Male Child of Upto Age 12
  • President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministers of other States, except Delhi
  • Emergency Vehicles
  • Defence Vehicles
  • Vehicles of SPG Protectees
  • Those On the Way to a Hospital [With Proof]

Now these exemptions, are major loopholes. Two wheelers are exempt. Are they not polluting? Evidently, Kejriwal and team have never been to Pune or Bangalore. According to a recent IIT Kanpur report: 46% pollution is created by trucks in the city when it comes to both PM 10 and PM 2.5. Two-wheelers contribute to 33% of the pollution, 10% is contributed by four-wheelers. Buses contribute to 5% of the pollution, whereas 4% is done by light commercial vehicles, and the rest is the contribution of three-wheelers and other factors.

CNG Vehicles, which make up most of the Public Transport. So, again, not much difference, people an pay ₹50k, get a CNG conversion done and keep going. Further, what stops a CNG vehicle from driving on Petrol? Hybid and Electric is fine to a certain extent, but then we must remember, these vehicles are expensive, and thus, the rich car owners of South Delhi can rejoice. Again, what stops a Hybrid vehicle from switching to fuel? Women Drivers with a Male Child? What sort of rubbish is this? So every woman in the household will now drive with her kid next to her. Official, Emergency and Defence Vehicles fine. Those on the way to the hospital must furnish proof? So if a car is stopped, you can throw a fit at the officers feet and he’ll let you go?

Commissioner of Police Delhi, BS Bassi, stated that out of 85lakh vehicles, 70lakh were exempt. What kind of rule is this? Lawyers have also been exempted from this rule.

The proposed fine for this is ₹2000 for each offence. Well done GNCTD, Well Done. You have successfully ruined a decent city.

Claiming that it was a success, two hours after it was launched, on a long weekend, when schools were shut in the winter, has to be the most illogical statement without any scientific backing whatsoever.

Updates

On 27th January, the Central Pollution Control Board stated that:

Overall, it can be stated that while some reduction in air pollution is likely to happen due to odd-even scheme, a single factor or action cannot substantially reduce air pollution levels in Delhi. Therefore, a comprehensive set of actions following an integrated approach is required to make substantial improvement in air quality,”

CNG Sticker Scam

With Round 2 of the Odd-Even scheme announced in April, a new twist has emerged.

The GNCTD had mandated that in order to be exempt from the earlier Odd-Even mess, all CNG vehicles would require a CNG sticker. These holographic stickers would be available at Indraprastha Gas stations. However, it has now emerged that these stickers could either be fake or sold off to car owners who don’t have a CNG vehicle.

Journalist Rahul Kanwal of India Today had this to tweet out about it.

Complete con job. Every other car at ITO has a CNG sticker. When I ask if the driver can open the boot – he freaks. Aise koi fayda nahi!

 

IVRS Scam

Another point to be noted was the IVRS Scam. Originally posted by the Frustrated Indian, this scam basically involved fake figures to showcase the Odd-Even hoopla as a success.

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World Toilet Day – #WeCantWait in Transit

19th November, World Toilet Day.

Toilets are very important as far as Transit is concerned. One reason, is to maintain cleanliness in public.

Whether you are traveling long distances, or going for a short trip, a toilet is important. Imagine, you have been running errands all day, and need to use the toilet. A blog post on the Wall Street Journal states that India has the worlds longest waiting line for using the toilet. While providing  toilets to people who don’t have one at home is out of the purview of this post, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government and the Narendra Modi Government have done a lot to change the ground reality. Now, the rest of this post deals with sanitation and related issues while traveling.

It is humanly impossible for BEST, or BMTC or any transco to provide toilets on every bus. Toilets on buses have been there for several years now, most notably in KSRTC’s Airavat Bliss and SETC’s Classic series of buses. The former was a Volvo B9R, while the latter was a custom-built non-AC coach on an Ashok Leyland chasis. Both had the same issue however: Foul odour because of people not using the toilet properly, not washing properly, or flushing something that wasn’t meant to be flushed. While it helped in a non-AC bus to have open windows, you can imagine the situation in a closed to air Volvo. If this is the case with long distance buses, one can only imagine the magnitude of how bad things can be if there were toilets in a regular bus running trips inside a city.

Now, it is impossible for BEST to provide toilets at each bus stop as well. The issues are plumbing and water. It would be nearly impossible to get the plumbing to each bus stop. However, here, I’d like to talk about something interesting that the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation did in Coimbatore. They set up stainless-steel booths on top of manholes which connected with the sewage lines and made them urinals. These urinals were interesting, but the main issue was that they were only meant for men. However, the issue would be less complex at BRTS stations. On BRTS systems like the Janmarg or Rainbow, the stations are at the centre of the road. Here, a toilet can be built, with a little less complexity. While I haven’t seen any Janmarg station with a toilet, I know that the Mukai Chowk terminal at Kiwale has toilets.

Railways stations almost always have toilets, though they are mostly in deplorable conditions and not fit for use. Ideally, Indian Railways should hand over the maintenance contracts of toilets to accountable contractors and make them answerable, otherwise we will always have people sitting on railway tracks or taking a leak at the end of the platform. Metro stations, mostly because they are new and relatively modern, usually have better toilets. The Airport Express line on the Delhi Metro has some clean toilets. The rest of the Delhi Metro, especially the Yellow and Red lines, feature Sulabh Shouchalayas. The Bangalore Metro on the other hand decided that it would be toilet-free with the justification that one would not need a toilet with such short trips. Utterly stupid, in my opinion. However, they have now partitioned the employees toilet into two, and made one half a Pay and Use toilet. Better late than never I guess. Mumbai did the right thing by ensuring that all Metro stations have a toilet in the paid area, that was available to users, free of cost. A fine decision I must say, given that Reliance has ensured that it earns maximum revenue possible at each station.

Now, the most important of them all: Bus stations. Bus stations usually have a toilet, especially the long distance ones. It is unfortunate that while most BMTC bus stations, atleast the larger ones feature reasonably clean pay and use toilets, no BEST bus station has one. I personally feel this needs to change immediately and BEST needs to provide loos in bus stations. All KSRTC and MSRTC bus stations have toilets, with the former being superior in terms of hygiene an cleanliness. While one may expect them to have clean toilets, atleast for Shivneri, Airavat or equivalent users, the situation isn’t the same everywhere. Tamil Nadu meanwhile has toilets at all bus stations, these are usually just a wall that can be used as a urinal. They are filthy, with the only clean toilet I’ve seen being the one in the Mettupalayam Road Bus Stand in Coimbatore, and also the most expensive.

But wait, aren’t we forgetting something important here? Yes we are. What about the bus conductors, drivers, railway engineers, et al? While most Metro operators have staff restrooms at terminal stations, the situation may not be the same with buses. Bus drivers and conductors with BMTC, KSRTC, MSRTC use the same rest room facilities as the passengers. While MSRTC normally doesn’t charge for urinals, the other two do, and this is why, I have seen a BMTC Volvo driver and conductor stop the bus near Bannerghatta National Park, go out, take a leak and come back. Similarly, due to lack of clean facilities, you’ll often see drivers of Haryana Roadways buses take a leak on the service lanes in Gurgaon. BEST meanwhile, has restrooms and sleeping areas for its staff at all depots. It has canteens for them at bus stations as well. Among all, the recently rebuilt Kurla Depot is supposed to have really good facilities for staff and being attached to the once dreaded Kurla depot has now become a privilege.

So, like I said last time, littering in public is a sin, but defecating, is a bigger sin. I just hope all transcos take a note of each other and provide proper facilities for both passengers and staff at all depots, stations, major bus stops, etc.

The answer to a lot of these problems lies in the eToilet. What is an eToilet, you ask?

e-Toilets are unmanned toilets which work on a sensor-based technology. The self-cleaning and water conservation mechanism in the toilet makes it unique. 

If India can adopt eToilets on a large scale, it would truly help our nation. All one needs to do is to set it up, and let the system run itself. Investment and operational costs can be recovered thru advertisements around it, or by putting a coin entry system and charging all users ₹1 to use it.

The problem is that very few people are willing to shell out that rupee. Most would prefer to take a leak elsewhere.

It is right now, the age of Digital Technology. Apps drive our world. When we can book a cab, buy groceries and provisions, even find a person to date with an app, it should be easier to find a loo with an app no? It is! Download PeeProvider, an app that helps locate the nearest clean loo!

PeeProvider
PeeProvider

On an unrelated note, today is International Men’s Day, World Toilet Day, and also the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.


World Toilet Day IndiChange Participant


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Public Transport and Cleanliness

They say Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Well, I wouldn’t disagree with that. When PM Modi started the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, I, for one was really happy. Here was a mission, endorsed by the Prime Minister himself with half the parliament supporting it. Indeed, it would mean that we could soon progress towards becoming a cleaner nation. However, this movement alone won’t suffice, for a lot remains to be done. Here, I am going to have a look at how cleanliness affects us while commuting.

Commuting is a very sticky situation from a cleanliness point of view. Lakhs of people use Public transport, we do not know where they come from, we do not know what they have  touched, nothing.

Among various factors, germ transmission is very high in public transport. Among various carriers for germs, apart from the air, especially in air-conditioned buses and trains, are currency notes and coins. Due to their extremely long life, since they are in circulation for periods extending to several years, they are hotbeds of germ activity. Similar to bank currency,  are the reusable tokens that are used in modern rapid transit systems. However, that isn’t all. If you use a ticket vending machine at a railway station, like in Mumbai, or the automated machines on the Metro, you would still be performing germ transactions. Possibly, the cleanest mode of payment would be using the Coupon Vending machine, since you won’t be touching the Coupons, or, using the UTS app. In BEST, I carry my prepaid card inside a small plastic packet, so if I buy a pass, I put it into that packet and keep it there behind the pass. Other sources of germs are the grab handles of course, since most people hold on to those, as well as the seats themselves, especially the fabric ones. Thankfully, on most long distance routes these are fumigated after each ride, but I still recall cockroaches behind the last seat of a Volvo B7RLE owned by TNSTC between Madras and Pondicherry in 2012.

Now, this brings us to another source of contaminants: Insects, Pests, Rodents, et al. Cockroaches on a TNSTC Volvo is  noteworthy, for it signifies that they are providing services on par with Greyhound buses. Similarly, there have been cases of rodents in transit systems. These, could lead to serious health issues.

Then there is the case of people spitting everywhere, inspite of boards asking them not to spit, or litter, everywhere. These give rise to other problems, they may not be contagious, but I sure wouldn’t want to step on them.

In PMPML and BMTC buses, I have noticed that there is a lot of junk on the floor of the bus. These include dust, hair, wrappers if food items, tickets, and what not. Most people may not realise it, but these can cause dust mites to spread as well as cause respiratory issues.

So, what exactly needs to be done?

For starters, we can not litter in buses and trains, as well as in stations. Find a dustbin, and dispose of trash in that. Transcos should ensure that they provide dustbins at all stations/stops and handover maintenance and disposing of trash to a private party. Metro rail and BRTS services have totally banned consumption of food and water on their premises as well as during transit. It would further help if major bus stations, BRTS terminals, and Metro stations had clean, paid, well maintained toilets on their premises for commuters to use, thus preventing the need for people to do it in the open.

However, the situation can be brought under control, if commuters changed their mindset. For example, I always carry a packet of tissues along with a plastic cover to store used ones when I’m sick. I also carry a Hand Sanitizer with me, but I realise it isn’t practical for everyone to carry a bottle of Dettol with them everywhere.

Prime Minister Modi indeed started a noble mission with the Swachh Bharat Mission. While previous governments may have done it, nobody made it such a major affair till now, and that must be commended. It is up to us citizens to honour our PMs wishes and help keep the country clean. So, stop littering, and keep our country, and its transport systems safe. Maybe, it’s high time someone kept a bottle of Dettol Hand Sanitizer next to the ATVM or Ticket counter for people to use after purchasing a ticket.

What are your opinions? Do post them in the comments section below.

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