Writing something this week seemed difficult, especially since there was too much to write about and then suddenly Stephen King appeared in my dreams, forcing me to sit and write. This week seemed much more interesting than the week gone by, especially since the campaign for the return of the Kohinoor gathered momentum. At the same time, the launch of the second phase of the odd-even scheme met with mixed responses from the public, who felt that it was rather odd. Regarding the Kohinoor, Andrew Whitehead, a professor at Queen Mary London, made it amply clear in his column that Britain would not return the Kohinoor because the demand for its return is not based on the tenets of international law, but nationalism. If only Britain were to understand that it does not have an exactly spotless record when it comes to its practices in the past, which did not uphold international law or human rights or the rights to self-determination. Coming back to this rather odd scheme—a far more interesting issue because of the media and PR circus around it—it is a disaster and has failed to achieve its purpose. Neither has it solved the traffic congestion in Delhi thanks to the level of preparedness of Delhi’s people, nor has it been able to bring down pollution levels in the city. One of the reasons why this scheme is garnering negative reviews across social media platforms, during discussions in offices and restaurants and on the road is because it is difficult to understand why it has to be implemented every six months for 15 days. Does the government want us to breathe good air for just 15 days every six months while we cough and suffer the whole year round? The government needs to realise that the number of cars on each of the odd-even days is almost the same, primarily because people have managed to rent cars for 15 days, taxis and taxi owners are having a field day making money, while auto-wallahs have turned exploiters by forcing people to cough up double the fare. The traffic police has been ruthless this time in implementing this scheme; they are not ready to take into account any kind of emergency or problem which may prompt someone to travel in the wrong car. Moreover, the government has failed to answer a basic question: is vehicular pollution the single largest polluter in Delhi? The answer is no. Despite repeated efforts, nobody in the government is ready to talk about the factories in and around Delhi that are polluting the air and water we drink. The odd-even scheme is simply not a political issue and should not be treated as such. Rather than curb pollution, the scheme is encouraging a kind of extremism and misdirected anger against any of its critics. If anybody criticises the scheme, he or she is labelled as a Congress or a BJP sympathiser. Why does a critic have to be tied with a party? It is being said that the scheme has been brought back on public demand. It would be nice to know when and how the Delhi government conducted this survey and some of us would also been interested in the sample size of the survey, the time when it was taken, the people who were interviewed. If it is a result of a public survey, the data needs to be put out in the public domain. We are demanding answers as to how this scheme has been able to bring down pollution and what about the days when it doesn’t? Does the government have a permanent solution at all? What about the rest of 350 days when the city is left choked? Where do this scheme and the manner it is being implemented take us? Is the government going to solve Delhi’s water crisis in a similar manner?
Tomorrow we might be asked to restrict our water needs for 15 days so that the government can deal with Delhi’s water crisis every summer.
The problem of bad air and scarce drinking water has been plaguing the city of Delhi for a while now. What we need is a permanent solution. We cannot be expected to breathe clean air for a few days while the rest of the year we stay choked. Instead of spending lakhs on hiring private buses and on advertisements, the Delhi government needs to treat the matter seriously and find a permanent solution. Why should the citizens be exploited? We are the aam aadmi in this city, and so we deserve some answers.