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Talk Point: A representative govt can’t ignore women’s security in a city like Delhi

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The National Green Tribunal Saturday gave a nod to the Delhi government to go ahead with the odd-even scheme, as an emergency step to curb high air pollution levels in Delhi. However, it asked the government to remove all exemptions from the scheme except for emergency vehicles. In the light of this order, the Delhi Government decided to call off the implementation of the scheme from 13-17 November, stating it would not “compromise with the safety of women”.

Should emergency measures to tackle air pollution like the odd-even scheme have exemptions?

The odd-even scheme was designed by the Aam Aadmi Party government towards the end of 2015 as a response to increasing levels of particulate matter in the air. The government has consistently regarded the scheme as an effective, scientifically proven emergency measure to reduce peak pollution levels and thereby limit the health effects of pollution.

The NGT has allowed the Delhi government to implement odd-even on the condition that there should be no exemptions for women, 2-wheelers, and VIPs. While the AAP Government had already declared that odd-even would apply to ministers in the Delhi government, it would be more than happy to comply with the NGT’s orders on removing exemptions for VIPs.

However, this order has derailed the government’s plans for now.

Here are other sharp perspectives on the odd-even scheme:

Pragya Kaushika: Assistant Editor, ThePrint
Barun Aggarwal: CEO, BreatheEasy Consultants Pvt Ltd
Nipun Malhotra: co-founder & CEO, Nipman Foundation
Polash Mukerjee: senior researcher, air pollution team, Centre for Science and Environment

When measures like this one are planned, the government’s responsibility is to ensure that those who are restricted from driving private vehicles, should have alternative modes of transport. Given that the number of 2-wheelers in Delhi is as high as 60 lakhs, it would be impractical to bring them under odd-even. If half of the 60 lakh 2-wheeler riders were to switch to public transport, it would cause the system to collapse within minutes.

The safety of women driving private vehicles is also a matter of concern. If the government is to implement odd-even without exemptions for women, we would be jeopardising the security of lakhs of women. It is not as though Delhi Police has been effective at stopping crimes against women thus far. In such an environment, it is absolutely untenable for the government to restrict women from using their vehicles even for a day.

There is strong evidence of the effectiveness of odd-even from several cities that have consistently deployed odd-even as an effective emergency measure. AAP hopes to get a favourable decision from the NGT today, so that it can implement the scheme with the necessary exemptions.

Ashutosh is spokesperson for Aam Aadmi Party.

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