The third edition of odd-even road space rationing scheme came into force in the national capital on Monday amid persistent high levels of pollution, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal claiming that the exercise on the first day was "successful” as 15 lakh cars were off the roads.
As many as 259 violaters were fined Rs 4,000 including Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Goel who, in a “symbolic protest”, drove his odd number SUV from his residence at Ashoka Road to Janpath.
His party has termed the scheme as an "election stunt" by the Aam Aadmi Party government which was causing harassment to the people.
Two thousand civil defence volunteers, 465 teams of the Delhi traffic police, revenue and transport departments were deployed on Monday. Six thousand buses, including 650 private buses were also pressed into service to deal with the additional number of commuters.
A Delhi government official said that DTC buses ferried over eight lakh passengers while cluster buses carried four lakh people in the morning shift.
There was relatively less traffic on roads and many said that they reached their destination early than usual.
Most people with odd number vehicles used different modes to travel.
Some carpooled, while others travelled in cabs, autos and public transport.
Leading the way, Kejriwal shared a car with his Cabinet colleagues Gopal Rai and Satyendar Jain to reach the Delhi Secretariat.
Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot travelled in his OSD's car, while deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia cycled to work.
While leaving for Delhi secretariat, Kejriwal told reporters that the odd-even scheme has been implemented to decrease vehicular emissions.
“Only 15 lakh cars of the total 30 lakh will be running on the roads of Delhi. I have received reports from various locations in Delhi since 8 am, and there has been 100 per cent obedience of rules under the scheme,” he told reporters.
Addressing a press conference, Sisodia and Gahlot said there was a “very high level of compliance” and the scheme was a “success” on day one.
A day after pollution levels peaked to a three-year high (494), the city's air quality index at 4 pm on Monday read 407 (severe).
It dipped further and at 8.30 pm the AQI stood at 370, which falls in the "very poor" category.
Last week, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi-NCR following an alarming level of pollution which the AAP government said was because of stubble-burning in neighbouring states.
As the odd-even road rationing scheme kicked in, the ruling AAP and the BJP accused each other of doing politics over it and not making much efforts to combat air pollution.
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari assailed Kejriwal government accusing it of "harassing" people through odd-even scheme. He questioned the Aam Aadmi Party government over steps taken by it to curb pollution in past five years of its rule.
Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra also termed the odd-even scheme as a "drama" by the Kejriwal government and said it would not help in solving the problem of high air pollution level in Delhi.
Many took to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to inform others that their cars were available for pooling and various ridesharing mobile applications offered discounts.
"I have an even-numbered car. I had posted about it online on Sunday to connect with those who will be travelling to the same place as me and would want to car pool. I had tried this in the last edition of odd-even too," said Shubham Magoo, an IT professional who travels to Noida from Gurgaon everyday for work.
"It is much cheaper than taking cabs and ultimately reduces the number of vehicles on road," he said.
However, many parents were worried about how the situation will be once the schools reopen on Wednesday, as the government had ordered their closure till November 5 due to spike in pollution.
The Delhi government last week had asked cab aggregators not to resort to surge pricing. But several commuters struggled to book cabs on Monday to reach their destinations as the waiting time to find one increased. Some complained that despite booking rides, cabs did not turn up.
Shashi Goswami, 65, who planned her journey from Dwarka to Faridabad, said it took her around 40 minutes to book a cab, probably due to high demand.
Chief Minister Kejriwal had also warned auto rickshaw drivers of strict action if they resorted to over-charging.
BJP leader Vijay Goel violated the scheme by driving in his SUV with an odd registration number from his residence at Ashoka Road to Janpath, before being stopped by traffic police personnel who fined him Rs 4,000.
“I am doing this as a symbolic protest against the Kejriwal government's failure to do anything in five years to curb pollution in Delhi. It is now enacting a drama and election stunt in view of the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.
Slamming Goel, Kejriwal said when the residents of Delhi are supporting the odd-even scheme, the BJP is opposing the efforts of people to reduce pollution.
“This is not right. The BJP should not do politics. They should support the people of Delhi," the chief minister told reporters.
Hitting out at Goel, Sisodia said the BJP leader's job was to do politics but he has no solution to the problem.
Sisodia said if Goel was concerned about pollution, he should have asked Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to convene a meeting with states to deal with the menace of pollution.
This was the third edition of the Odd Even, with the earlier two being in 2016. Under the scheme, which will be implemented from 8 am to 8 pm till November 15, non-transport four-wheeled vehicles with registration numbers ending with an odd digit (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) will not be allowed on the roads on November 4, 6, 8, 12 and 14.
Similarly, vehicles with registration numbers ending with an even digit (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) will not be allowed on the roads on November 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15.
Two-wheelers and electric vehicles have been exempted from the restrictions, but not CNG vehicles.
Women-only vehicles with children aged up to 12 years and vehicles occupied by physically-disabled persons will also be exempted.
Twenty-nine categories of vehicles, including those of president, prime minister, emergency and enforcement vehicles, have been exempted.