Even though the odd-even formula for cars plying on Delhi roads concluded successfully recently, it is in the hands of people to make use of public transport a regular practice for the sake of clean and green Delhi which is said to be one of the most polluted cities on the planet. Ramesh Kumar Raja had a conversation with Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai during a bus ride with him when the scheme was on, to know his side of story about the government’s initiative to curb pollution. Edited excerpts:

Gopal Rai, Transport Minister, Delhi

How do you rate the experiment of odd-even cars in Delhi?

It was altogether a successful exercise. The people of Delhi wholeheartedly supported the scheme. It had a positive impact on pollution levels and traffic volume of the city. While it drastically brought down the levels of PM 2.5, the odd-even scheme also resulted in decongestion of roads that reduced travel time for many people. It also had a social impact when people started following others, such as the concept of carpooling came into practice. Remarkably, it also helped reduce the number of road accidents.

The Delhi High Court’s decision to not interfere with your government’s notification on the odd-even formula was like icing on the cake. How do you view it?

The decision was definitely in the interest of citizens of Delhi. The court perfectly observed it was a policy decision taken based on expert knowledge to curb air pollution. I hope the sufficient data collected from the 15 days of odd-even exercise will be of great help in taking further steps after reviewing them. We will take the suggestion of experts on how to implement it in the long run.

The way people cooperated in this exercise, can we assume odd-even is going to be a regular practice?

After reviewing the data, whenever the need arises the odd-even scheme will definitely be imposed in order to bring down the pollution level. The government is very positive in this regard and will come up with a fool proof plan next time. By the way, it was important to make the first phase successful, so that people would obey it when it is reintroduced.

Delhi roads are not designed to encourage bicycle ride, which could reduce pollution. What is your opinion on the same?

Promoting cycling is the next on our agenda towards ensuring lesser pollution. Our government is committed to utilize the money collected as fines for violating the car-rationing rules for creating lanes for cyclists and give subsidies on purchase of cycles to buyers. We are also planning to re-design the pavements, build tracks and stands to promote the cycling environment in the city.

What is your endeavour at community level?

At community levels, we are committed to improve the last mile connectivity. We also encourage people towards plantation and doing away with burning of waste in their vicinity. As a part of our exercise to curb pollution at local level, I must appeal to people to use bicycles every day for their short travel needs, such as purchasing household items like milk, instead of using bikes in their colonies. They can easily ride them in their colonies where the possibilities of road accidents are less.