By Sumiran Preet Kaur
54 year old Davinder Singh from Mumbai finally purchased a car from his provident fund. He thinks his new car will save his time and energy . But having a vehicle of your own is no respite from the snarling traffic in metropolitan cities of India. Reason -traffic jam and may be the number plate of the car. Surprised? Read on.
A new PIL for regulation of traffic
Recently a NGO called Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court pressing for the implementation of the Traffic Restraint Scheme (TRS) in Mumbai. It was a scheme proposed by a committee headed by former transport commissioner VM Lal. The committee had come up with 100 ways to reduce Mumbai’s vehicular pollution, one of which was the TRS. Under this scheme, applicable during peak hours, vehicles with number plates ending with numbers 1 and 2 would be barred entry into Mumbai on Mondays, number plates ending with numbers 3 and 4 will be restricted entry on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursdays and 9 and 0 on Fridays. Government and police vehicles, ambulances and emergency vehicles would be exempted from the ban. The state government of Mumbai opposes the scheme. The implementation matter is in the court.
According to the NGO such schemes are needed to control traffic and protect environment. Such measures will provoke people to use the public transport. The number plate idea is not new and was introduced most recently in Beijing. The system also exists in Athens and Rome. Neeraj Doshi , an environmentalist with Rianta Capital says that it is high time the authorities took traffic and environmental problems seriously. “We need to protect the environment of these cities. People will respond only when forced by the authorities. It will help in cutting down the emissions. Cities like Delhi and Mumbai are among the most polluted cities.”
Need of the hour?
Delhi is the fourth most polluted city in the world. A Business Standard study points out that the city's population has grown by more than 50 per cent during the last 10 years. The average length of roads of Delhi is per100 sq km (1,922 km) -still way above the national average. But the pressure is too much to handle. A report by the Environment Protection Control Authority says the every day 963 new vehicles arrive on Delhi's roads, of which 308 are diesel-run.
So any plans to implement TRS scheme in Delhi? According to Additional Commissioner of Police of Delhi Muktesh Chandra, such policies can only be initiated by the government. “The traffic problem in the city is growing by the day. We will need such stringent measures anytime now. But we are not the policy makers. Our duty is to catch the defaulters.”
Traffic jams, less parking spaces, damaged roads …all these are path blocks to Delhi’s dream of becoming a world class city. So where does the problem lie? For Chandra, it’s a multifaceted issue. “Role of civic agencies, master plan without a distant vision, immigration and population growth are the various reasons for the mess. With increasing incomes and affordable cars like Nano, people would want to buy more than one car. So the authorities need to gear up.” If the authorities implement TRS, will all problems get solved? As per Doshi, any plan requires good research work to make it successful. “ TRS can be successful provided it is backed by an efficient public transport system. The government should also provide the alternatives. Crowded buses and trains are not the answer.”
For Davinder Singh of Mumbai what will be the use of buying the car if one cannot use it when needed ? “My age does not allow me to make use of the public transport. My health and need for money are important than thinking about the environment.”
So ultimately with whom does the onus of controlling the traffic and addressing the environmental concerns lie? The government or the people?