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I will use buses, carpool during Odd-Even: Delhi Transport Minister (Interview)


New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) The Odd-Even scheme is set to return to Delhi for third time from November 4 to 15, and state Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has promised that the state government will make no exceptions for its ministers and he himself will be seen travelling by the Metro, buses or carpool during the period.

"We will follow the same rules as the people. You will find me in buses and metros. I will also use carpool. There will be no exceptions," he said.

Gahlot said the government is fully prepared for the scheme, which it hopes will result in a drop in the city’s level of air pollution.

Last month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced a seven-point action plan to combat rising air pollution in the national capital caused by stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh during winter. Among the steps are the implementation of Odd-Even scheme, community Diwali laser show, distribution of pollution masks, deployment of environment marshals and implementation of a plan for dust control.

Though the government has exempted private CNG vehicles and vehicles driven by women from the Odd-Even scheme, it is yet to take a decision on inclusion of two-wheelers in it.

Gahlot said there are 70 lakh registered two-wheelers in Delhi and the government is studying various aspects of the pollution caused by them to reach a final decision.

"But it will not be practical to take half of the bike off the roads. The public transport in Delhi does not have so much capacity. Public transport in no city in the world has a vacant capacity to accommodate about 25-30 lakh additional people at a time," said the minister, adding that the government will run 2,000 additional buses between November 4 and 15.

While the state government is still working out the modalities of the scheme and fine for its violation, Gahlot refused that the fine will be Rs 20,000 — as per the new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act provisions.

"We don’t want people to pay heavy fines. This is not the purpose of the scheme. We are having a discussion on the fine amount. Also, the last time we deployed the Civil Defence volunteers to monitor traffic during the scheme days and these volunteers cannot take fine," he said.

He said the Delhi government will run an awareness drive about the Odd-Even scheme to avoid any inconvenience to the public. "We are planning have hoardings in the border areas so that people coming from outside the city don’t face inconvenience due to lack of information," he said.

Gahlot, who is also the state Environment Minister, said the government has taken several steps to keep dust pollution under check in the city.

"The Environment Department has been inspecting different parts of the city to see if there is any violation by any agency. In several cases, fines have been imposed. Our own departments such as the PWD, the DMRC, the Delhi Jal Board and the DDA too have been fined. I may also visit and do a surprise inspection of the big construction sites in the city," said the Minister.

On free travel for women in public transport, Gahlot said though the prososal is yet to get approved by the Delhi Metro, the government is fully prepared to implement it in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses.

"From October 29, women travelling in DTC and cluster scheme buses will be given a pink pass for free travel and the government will reimburse the DTC with Rs 10 for each pass issued," said Gahlot.

The Delhi government also has a proposal to add bike-taxis to the city transport to improve first and last mile connectivity during the Odd-Even scheme.

"We are not against it. But the regulations do not allow bike-taxis to operate in Delhi. The proposal has to go through a process of scrutiny," he said.

The announcement of the Odd-Even scheme has met with opposition from the BJP. Gahlot said: "Air is for all and its pollution will impact all and so the efforts to prevent that pollution have to be collective. We have been urging the whole city, including the BJP leaders, to make the implementation of Odd-Even successful. We hope they will pitch in."

(Nivedita Singh can be contacted at [email protected])