Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Odd-even mandate won’t clean Delhi’s air, it is a recipe for poverty & havoc

The ultimate test of a new mandate from a socialist government is whether a large number of people are obeying it—the actual outcomes of the mandate don't seem to matter. Such an inference may sound unbelievable, but Delhi’s political class is hailing the odd-even mandate as a major success, solely because majority of Delhiites are obeying it. A day after the mandate was imposed, on the day for odd-number-plate cars, the Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwalsaid: "I am truly overwhelmed. There are very few even numbered cars on the roads.”

When the fine of breaking the odd-even mandate is Rs. 2000, people have no alternative but to obey. But what was the aim of the mandate? Was stopping people from using cars the real aim? If improving the quality of Delhi’s air was the objective, then why is the Chief Minister citing fewer cars on the roads as a measure of the mandate’s success? He should have cited some concrete figures to show that there has been an actual reduction in air pollution.

If one is objective, one can see, with absolute lucidity, the right solution for any real problem. But when the aim is to expand the power of the ruling class, then we find the politicians and the intellectuals deploying their verbosity to project some new problem, one that is shrewdly packaged to appeal to the conscience of the people—the idea is to bamboozle the people into accepting a new set of unnecessary restrictions on certain aspects of their lives, in name of solving the problem, which does not even exist. The pollution from cars in Delhi is not a real problem, it is a pseudo problem that the ruling class has invented for political reasons.

A study conducted by IIT (Kanpur) shows that cars contribute less than 1% of the total pollutants. This is an excerpt from a report in The Financial Express:

“The IIT study has pointed out that 56% of the PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometers) and 38% of PM2.5 pollution comes from road dust and only 9% and 20%, respectively, come from all categories of vehicles combined. Of all the vehicles, 46% of PM10 and PM2.5 comes from trucks and 33% comes from two-wheelers, while four wheelers — only diesel — contribute only 10%, which makes it even less than 1% of the total pollutants.”

Since cars are not the major cause of Delhi’s pollution, permitting cars on roads on alternate days, depending on the last digit of the number plate, can do nothing to clean the city’s air. When the odd-even formula was first implemented, from January 1 to January 15, 2016, it did not lead to any improvement in the air quality. In fact, the air-pollution levels in Delhi rose during the 15 day period when the odd-even rule was in place. Even if all the cars are banned for all the days, there will not be any significant improvement in air quality.

The IIT study proves that much of the pollution that we have in Delhi consists of dust. The problem of dust can’t be solved by demonizing or restricting cars. But facts don’t matter to the intellectuals and politicians, who are behind the odd-even mandate. To them this mandate is a way of increasing their power and proclaiming that they are superior to everyone else because they pretend to be concerned about quality of air that the blighted natives of Delhi breathe. They want to project the view that they are on the side of angels who are trying to ensure pristine air for all.

Though the first phase of the odd-even rule did nothing to improve air quality, the mandate is back from April 15. According to reports, the odd-even system will be in force for 15 days every month.

The aim of the odd-even mandate continues to be shrouded in mystery. The most verbose supporters of the mandate are now claiming that they want to nudge Delhi’s citizens into making more use the city’s public transport system so that there is less traffic on the roads. It is absurd and draconian to ban cars for curbing traffic. To solve the traffic problems, you have to widen the roads, have more flyovers, and better the signalling system. The leftists are incapable of solving the real problems, so they try to divert the public’s mind with imbecilic ideas for solving invented problems.

The very phrase “clean air” is tendentious. Is the air quality in Delhi worse than that in most Indian villages where there are hardly any cars? And if the air quality in Delhi is so bad then why are people from all parts of the country coming to the city to live and work? Also, why is the life expectancy in Delhi higher than that in most parts of the country? The truth is that people are thriving in all the world's major cities, which have large numbers of cars on roads. Clearly there is no evidence to show that cars are bad for human health.

Even if cars were the primary cause of the pollution in Delhi, which they are not, the government does not have the moral right to restrict people from driving their vehicles. A government powerful enough to restrict car travel, can restrict anything. What stops the government from passing a new mandate to stop us from using two-wheelers or air-conditioners on certain days? What stops the government from trying to regulate the business of vehicle manufacturers, air-conditioner manufacturers and fuel makers?

In name of cleaning the air, an emotive argument can be made to ban every modern convenience, regulate every business, and every technology. This will ultimately have an adverse impact on the economic environment; it will force businesses to flee to places where such restrictions do not exist. The more the politicians try to fix things, the worse things get. Mandates like the odd-even formula are a recipe for poverty and havoc.

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