Beginning Jan. 1, the New Delhi government will take on the city’s choking air pollution head-on by allowing car owners to drive only every other day — cars with license plates ending in odd numbers on one day, even numbers on the next.
But even before the city's residents begin their tryst with car-pooling and public transport, the government said the rule will not apply to everybody.
On Monday, the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, announced a long list of 26 exemptions to the ambitious new 15-day experiment.
The list includes the usual suspects of VIPs, who in India enjoy many perks, including being exempted from airport security checks and highway tolls.
The new odd-even car rule in the city will not apply to India’s prime minister, president, ministers, defense ministry vehicles, governors and chief ministers of 29 states and seven territories, judges, parliament speakers, leader of opposition, people with special protection guards, pilot vehicles of commando-protected VIPs, embassy vehicles and so on.
The rule will not apply to scooters and motorcycles, which contribute one-third of the pollutants in the city, according to one study.
The list of exemptions is typical of public policymaking in India, some said.
In 2011, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh famously said Indians like to find ways to
"Indians take great delight in passing laws but greater delight in bypassing them," Ramesh said.
But the situation in the city is dire.
The World Health Organization said in 2014 that New Delhi, with 16 million people and 8 million vehicles, was the most polluted city in the world.
Wednesday was the most polluted day of the year in the Indian capital, with the highest levels of suspended particulate matter reported, authorities said. They termed the city's air quality “severe.”
“Those who have to leave their cars behind at home, we know, you will face some difficulties,” Kejriwal said at a Thursday news conference. “But this is for all of you and your children. See, we are all coughing. We are doing this for clean air.”
Kejriwal added that he will not be part of the exemption list. Other exemptions include ambulances, fire trucks, hearses and police vehicles.
Also exempt: cars driven by women on their own, by women with only women passengers and by women with children below 12 years of age, as well as cars driven by disabled people. If a violator pleads a medical emergency, then the person's car will be allowed based on “trust,” said Kejriwal.
Associations of lawyers, doctors and journalists also wrote to the government and sought to be exempted. But they were rejected.
A volunteer army of 10,000 people will be deployed on the streets requesting violators to get off the roads. They will even present people with roses before sending them back, Kejriwal said.
If roses don't work, violators will have to cough up a fine of about $30.