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 famous American horror author H.P. Lovecraft once said, “If I could create an ideal world, it would be an England with the fire of the Elizabethans, the correct taste of the Georgians, and the refinement and pure ideals of the Victorians.”
Sadly, an ideal world only exists in works of fiction, and here we are, suffocating from the air pollution in Delhi. Since we do not live in an ideal world, it is important to highlight the state of the public transport infrastructure in Delhi for persons with disabilities (PwDs).
The Delhi Metro is often celebrated as a model example of an accessible transport solution for PwDs. However, it doesn’t offer last-mile connectivity. Exiting the metro station, one is faced by broken surfaces and potholes. Surfaces aren’t hard enough, and the gradient of the slope (if any) is more than 1:12 — the maximum possible for wheelchair users to move around. Pavements hardly have ramps, leaving them inaccessible for wheelchair users. The city also lacks enough accessible low-floor buses.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the odd-even scheme:
Ashutosh: Spokesperson, Aam Aadmi Party
Pragya Kaushika: Assistant Editor, ThePrint
Barun Aggarwal: CEO, BreatheEasy Consultants Pvt Ltd
Polash Mukerjee: senior researcher, air pollution team, Centre for Science and Environment
Broken surfaces, the absence of tactile tiles and of sufficient high-clearance hurdles make it impossible for the visually challenged to travel safely.
Incidentally, the disabled were not originally exempt from odd-even when it was introduced almost two years ago. After having repeatedly written to the Delhi CM and the relevant transport authorities requesting an exemption, I was forced to file a PIL in the Delhi High Court that granted us an exemption. As part of my PIL, I had also demanded a mobility audit of the city.
Sadly, not much has changed since then. In fact, earlier this year, the government announced its plans to procure 2,000 standard-floor buses (as against the accessible low-floor buses), further making the city inaccessible to the disabled.
I do hope that the NGT reconsiders its decision, and PwDs are exempted in case odd-even goes ahead. Else, it promises to be an alternate-day-stay-at-home scheme for us.
Nipun Malhotra is co-founder & CEO, Nipman Foundation