New Delhi: Delhi, a city fast becoming the new pollution capital of the world, adds 1400 cars to its roads every day. Over the last decade, the number of vehicles in Delhi has jumped by a phenomenal 97 per cent.
In 2000, diesel cars accounted for only 4 per cent of all car sales. Today, half the cars sold run on diesel. In contrast, public transport has not been able to keep pace. Despite a Supreme Court order saying Delhi should have 11000 public transport buses, an estimated 6251 are in service.
Apart from the odd customary hoardings urging the use of public transport to tackle Delhi's pollution problem, there's little evidence of a plan in action.
Nishant, who drives a petrol-CNG vehicle, says, "In my location there is no bus...it used to run earlier...now it doesn't. We used to travel by auto... but he would charge 40 to the metro station. It's more cost effective to take your own car and drive to wherever you want to," he says.
A resident of Noida who works in Delhi's Connaught Place says, "If you are talking about Delhi, public transport is good...but if you are talking about NCR, then DTC buses are pathetic."
Advocate Harish Salve who is the amicus curae in the Supreme Court feels the time for talking is over. He says, "We need drastic measures. Vehicles have to be made more expensive... at the same time we have to make public transport facility adequate."
But when we asked Delhiites if they would pay an extra 30 per cent as environmental compensation to own cars as has been suggested, the answers were diverse.
A diesel car owner said, "If they are charging in excess at the time of buying and slowly they are giving you some subsidy in diesel...I don't find anything wrong." But he's not in favour of an extra 30 per cent charge for the environment. "We are salaried employees," he offers as an explanation.
Soumya, who ironically travels by metro, is equally defensive. "Today car is not a luxury...it's a necessity. The government should use its own funds for pollution related things... not charge people."
The biggest irony perhaps is that buses that account for 50 per cent of transport are taxed higher than private cars, which means that instead of promoting public transport, our policies seem to discourage it