Odd-even scheme shows what people power can achieve and that AAP can govern: Arvind Kejriw
In an exclusive article for TOI, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal says his faith in the people of the country has been proved right. And his government's execution of the elaborate odd-even scheme, drawn up in a short duration, has shown that AAP is not a dharna party and can deliver governance.
The immense success of the odd-even scheme has conclusively proved two things. First, that the people of this country are great. Believe in them, and they will achieve wonders. And second, that the AAP government is capable of governing quite well.
It is common in our country to sit over a cup of tea and curse ourselves. We talk about how people in other countries like Singapore, Britain, Japan, US etc. are so disciplined when it comes to following traffic rules or keeping roads clean. We then curse Indians saying that they lack civic sense and can never behave properly.
I have always had immense faith in the people of my country. I have pointed out that when the same Indians go to other countries, they do so well in almost all fields. I have always believed that Indians are first-class people with third-class governance. And with proper systems and a sincere leadership, Indians have the capacity to work wonders.
The success of the odd-even scheme has proved my point. To implement this scheme, our government believed in people. We engaged them with sincerity and continuously. We explained why the scheme was important for public health. The scheme was not designed by a few people sitting in a room and then thrust on the people. In fact, its details evolved as we moved along. Several public debates took place. Suggestions came from all sections of society. All good suggestions were incorporated.
The biggest challenge was to decide whom to exempt. I remember chairing a meeting in the second week of December. Heads of many departments were present. There was a lot of pressure on us to issue the "notification". However, we refused to do so as there was quite a debate going on all across Delhi on this issue. We wanted to take everyone along. Therefore, we decided that this critical notification will be done around December 25 after taking all views into account.
Subsequently, I personally met many groups of people who were demanding exemption for themselves - lawyers, doctors, women, senior citizens etc. Even some MPs approached me with a request that all cars with Parliament stickers should be exempted. I had long discussions with all of them. I can't say that I satisfied everyone, but we were successful in taking most of them along.
Finally, when the scheme was announced, it had far more acceptability than at the time the intent to do so had been announced about a month back. On New Year's Eve, I was quite nervous. It was the nervousness of that boy who has an exam next day, who has revised the syllabus twice but is still nervous.
Next day, when reports of its success started pouring in, I was overwhelmed. The people of Delhi had accepted the scheme. Of the more than 2 million vehicles, there were just 200 violations on the first day. It was truly amazing. It showed people's power.
Obviously, people did not accept it for the fear of the Rs 2000 fine. That amount is so small that people would have happily paid up if they decided to violate the scheme. I had repeatedly said in my talks before the launch of the scheme that if the people decided to violate the scheme in large numbers, we would have to withdraw it. We couldn't have implemented the scheme with a danda. The same set of people who were condemned by everyone earlier as indisciplined were leaving their cars behind and either car-pooling or using public transport.
The second important learning from the success of the odd-even scheme is that AAP can smoothly implement one of the toughest government schemes in recent times. Simply put, it proved that AAP can govern. AAP's critics had always condemned AAP saying that it was a dharna party without any governance capability. The odd-even scheme was a fairly big scheme, which was conceived and designed in a very short period of just one month. Each and every detail was discussed and worked out. A large number of volunteers were enrolled, trained and deployed. Its success shows that AAP has the capacity to design large-scale programmes and implement them smoothly in the shortest possible time.
Though pollution has reduced as a result of the scheme, it is the significant reduction in traffic congestion all over Delhi that has caught everyone's imagination. Traffic jams are rare. Travel time across Delhi has got significantly reduced. Imagine the man-hours saved. People seem to be much more at peace with themselves when on road now. One does not hear about incidents of road rage though it is too soon to conclusively say that it is over.
Will it be extended after January 15? That's the question everyone is asking. My personal suggestion is that the scheme be stopped on January 15 for some time, so that we can take stock and analyse our experience of the 15 days. We could implement it later in a better form.
In the beginning, many people cautioned me against implementing the odd-even scheme. Conventional political wisdom was against it. Some people cautioned me that it would annoy the public at large. I am told that the Opposition was almost certain that it would turn the public against us. Contrary to the expectations of all critics, it turned out to be successful.
I feel that AAP should not take decisions on the basis of conventional vote-bank calculations. We should have the courage and conviction to do what is good for the people. What is right must be done but with a lot of planning and discussion and genuine people's participation.