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Insights into Editorial: Betting on odds and evens + MINDMAPS on Current Issues

Insights into Editorial: Betting on odds and evens + MINDMAPS on Current Issues

08 December 2015

In a radical step to curb alarming air pollution, Delhi Government has restricted plying of private vehicles bearing odd and even registration numbers to alternate days from 1 January in the national capital.

  • All private vehicles even having registration numbers issued by neighbouring states will have to follow the odd-even number formula. However, emergency services and public transport will not be under the ambit of the restriction.
  • This decision is aimed at cutting down vehicular pollution in the city by half.
  • In the backdrop of the decision, the city government is also planning to strengthen the public transport system by introducing more buses and increasing the frequency of Metro trains to accommodate the rush of commuters.


The pollution levels in Delhi have risen significantly in the last few weeks. Recently, the Delhi High Court had observed that the current air pollution levels in city have reached alarming proportions and it was akin to living in a gas chamber. It had directed the Centre and city government to present comprehensive action plans to combat it.


  • Nationally, over 35% of urban households own a motorised two-wheeler and just under 10% own a car, jeep or van. In Delhi, where per capita incomes are among the highest in the country, these proportions are much higher: nearly 40% of households own a two-wheeler and over 20% of households own a car.
  • Eighty-eight lakh cars and two-wheelers hit Delhi’s streets every day, and the city has the world’s worst air quality.
  • A 2011 National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data shows that Delhi was among the States with the longest commutes: Goa, Chandigarh and Delhi had the highest proportion of households where the main earner needed to travel more than 5 km to his or her place of work.
  • Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) levels in the city since Diwali have systematically remained in the severe category of India’s National Air Quality Index.
  • During winter, the burning of paddy straw by farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana coincides with cooler temperatures to bring on a lethal fog.

Difficulties in implementing this decision:

  • According to the Delhi Police, the strength of its traffic police is around 5,000, out of which 10% can be discounted at anytime for reasons of leave. Besides managing traffic, a section of traffic police is also deployed to facilitate VVIP movements in the Capital. To enforce the odd/even number play throughout any given day, police strength needs to be increased substantially.
  • This decision may lead to people buying an extra car, one with an odd number and another with an even number. Even if the government tries to restrict ownership of vehicle to 1, one can easily get it registered in the name of another family member.
  • This decision could result in creation of another industry which will fleece people in name of getting the right registration number. This could also lead to forging of odd/even number-plates.
  • This decision might affect differently abled persons. It is difficult for them to use public transport, which is neither seamless nor accessible for them.
  • The decision would also affect working women who often work as late as the men in their offices.


According to a study, car emissions contribute to between 50 and 80% of PM10 loads. An Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur study submitted has also found that vehicular emissions contributed to up to 60% of winter air pollution. Thus, the Delhi government’s Odd even formula is a good step in the right direction. The formula has worked well in places such as Beijing and Mexico city which have also been grappling with high levels of pollution. But Delhi’s problem is acute and hence one single measure will not suffice. Enforcing car-free days, stringent emission norms, encouraging car-pooling and launching plantation drives and most important of all, public campaigns are a must before asking the people to accept something like an odd-even formula. Else, the policy will certainly fail.



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