There’s no hope for the odd-even formula in Delhi. Expect chaos, court cases, street fights, belligerent citizens and a hassled police force once it comes into operation a couple of days later. The doomsday scenario has been painted already — livelihoods are going to be hit; the economy is set to grind to a halt; bus stops and train stations will turn into warzones; patients with kidney, heart and other ailments are going to have a torrid time, and yes, how demeaning is it for someone travelling alone to office in his BMW to be part of a carpool with lesser people?
It appears plans are afoot to dodge the formula already. Smart people have started collecting fake CNG tickets and number plates. Others have kept the money ready, just in case. Since AAP volunteers are likely to get involved in making the idea work, expect a high-decibel political battle over the next two weeks. The state government plans to experiment with it for a fortnight; chances are it will be off the streets sooner. After that, it will be life as normal for everyone Delhi.
The city loves its dirt, filth and polluted air. It cannot do without it daily fix of toxic gases and suspended particles. It cannot let go of its everyday comforts even if it means exposing kids to a hazardous, unhealthy life. It loves getting into arguments and winning them: It is some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. Everybody’s life is under threat from pollution, that’s no big deal; but the government, whose ever it is, has to be shown to be foolish. The city, the city-state if you please, is indeed too normal for comfort, it cannot even react to dire warning signals.
What baffles about Delhi is the lack of the sense of ownership — everything is someone else’s responsibility, not mine. The gangrape on 16 December, 2012 made Delhi look like a place that can still respond with a big heart and deep concern to existential matters such as safety. The message behind those candle light processions, frenzied street protest and the collective outrage was to make it a safe place, particularly for women.
Three years on, nothing has changed on the ground. That the city with its own unique demographic challenges needed better policing and this called for a re-arrangement of distribution of responsibilities involving the Central and state governments was soon lost in the din of politics.
The city does not even discuss it any more. If another 16 December takes place, there won’t be many faces hanging in shame. Aren’t we like that only? The same goes for all issues from filth on the streets to road infrastructure, and even mobile connectivity.
Indifference is wired into Delhi’s genetic code.
A part of the blame lies in its own history and the way it has shaped up over time. There have been just too many outsiders with limited interest in the city and no incentive to make it better. There are three cities inside one and all live distinct from each other — Lutyen’s Delhi, the middle Delhi and the jhuggi-jhopdi Delhi. The intrinsic exclusivity of the three given the socio-economic backdrop of the lives they support and the self-interests that drive the segments comes in the way of a collective vision for the city. As people grow in close proximity to each other for long points of convergence that feeling of ‘us’ emerges.
Delhi still does not have it.
Yes, Delhi’s big ego and internal asymmetry will make the odd-even formula collapse. As the citizens continues to inhale toxic gases, they will still fail to understand that the matter is not about some Arvind Kejriwal, the BJP or the Congress; it’s about their own lives and the lives of their children.
If the city dies, nobody survives.
Updated Date: Dec 29, 2015 13:07:08 IST