The Odd Even Scheme has met with general public support in Delhi and has definitely resulted in less traffic congestion in Delhi, if not yet in significantly lower pollution. Yet, in spite of the positive response and public cooperation, the scheme was withdrawn by the Delhi Government on 15 January. Why?
The answer is simple - schools cannot remain closed indefinitely, and the success of the Odd Even scheme has depended in great measure on the fact that school buses have been roped in to bear the greater burden of road transport. This shows us that any sustained and long lasting change in transport habits and pollution levels depends almost entirely on better public transport, specifically better bus transport in Delhi.
The people of Delhi responded well to the Delhi Government's Odd Even appeal. Is the Delhi Government listening to the people's demand for better public transport?
Various expert environmentalists have stressed the need to ensure an adequate number of publicly run buses on Delhi's streets in order to ensure that fewer people have to take out their cars or two wheelers at all. Estimates by the Centre for Science and Environment show that "just by improving fleet utilization of DTC buses, completing all scheduled trips and eliminating missed trips in a day, DTC buses, cluster buses and 2,000 hired buses can carry at least 25 lakh additional passengers daily and absorb new demand during odd and even programme. This is equivalent to removing 16 lakh cars from roads."
Moreover, the Supreme Court in 1998 had estimated that Delhi needs a fleet of at least 11000 buses on the roads. Yet the fleet of DTC and cluster buses in all is barely half this number today. DTC Workers Unity Centre estimated that today Delhi needs 25,000 buses on the roads to meet the demand.
Delhi needs a much larger fleet of affordable DTC buses in order to breathe. DTC buses are the real lungs of Delhi, as well as Delhi's wheels - Delhi's buses are also the key to women's safe access to public space. To ensure better public transport DTC has to be strengthened and this cannot happen without resolving long pending demands of the workers of DTC like long overdue pension payments. In addition, Delhi roads also need to be made much friendlier to walkers and cyclists.
To ensure that public transport remains affordable to all sections of society it is important that the demands of the students like student bus pass should be valid in AC buses be resolved.
A day after the Odd-Even Scheme ended on the 16th of January a dharna was held at Jantar Mantar by AICCTU affiliated DTC Workers Unity Centre, AISA, RYA and AIPWA. The AICCTU General Secretary Com. Rajiv Dimri, AICCTU Delhi President Com. Gautam, AICCTU Delhi Secretary Com. Santosh Rai, CPI(ML) Delhi Secretary Com. Ravi Rai were present at the dharna.
Adressing the dharna Com. Tarachand Secretary of DTC Workers Unity Centre said, ‘the odd even scheme could become successful on the back of the 15-18 hour shifts put in by the workers of the workers of the DTC, yet there is no acknowledgement of their hard work. Today it has been proven beyond doubt that the only way to a cleaner and safer Delhi is by increasing public transport and massive expansion of the DTC. The Kejriwal Govt. has to ensure that at least 25,000 buses are bought for the DTC to ensure effective public transport’. Com. Santosh Rai said, ‘In the coming days we will go the localities of Delhi and hold public hearings among the people of the city, we will also go the universities and ask the students about their demands and around them we will build a movement for effective public transport and strengthening of the DTC. The CPI(ML) is conducting a month-long campaign in Delhi organizing public hearings on the question of public transport. The campaign will culminate in a convention in which members of different transport corporations and experts in public transport will participate.