Existing infrastructure such as FASTags could provide sustainable solutions to contain pollution and regulate traffic: Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani, the former head of the UIDAI feels that measures such as odd-even are unsustainable in the long run.


The Delhi air pollution issue has been bothering citizens every winter, with the air quality index (AQI) reaching hazardous levels routinely. Just last week, the AQI crossed the 1,000 mark in many locations in New Delhi and many parts of north India. The government has suggested implementing the odd-even number-plate-based car bans from 13 November for five days.

 Existing infrastructure such as FASTags could provide sustainable solutions to contain pollution and regulate traffic: Nandan Nilekani

Representational image. PTI

According to the national green tribunal (NGT) directive, the odd-even scheme should be implemented "without any default" as and when PM (particulate matter) 10 level goes above 500 microgrammes per cubic metre and PM 2.5 level crosses the limit of 300 microgrammes per cubic metre during a span of 48 hours.

Nandan Nilekani, chairman of Infosys and the former head of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) feels that measures such as odd-even are unsustainable in the long run. Writing for Mint, Nilekani expressed his opinion that existing infrastructure such as the FASTag could be employed to provide more long-term solutions.

FASTag is a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that is expected to be present on all vehicles from 1 December onward. The FASTag was launched by the Indian Highways Management Co Ltd (IHMCL) back in 2014 as a means of electronically paying your tolls. Toll booths are expected to have RFID readers which will enable electronic toll collection. The transaction switch is handled by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). Around 600,000 vehicles of the 4 million vehicles on the road are currently sporting the RFID tag.

According to Nilekani, FASTag can be used to resolve the vehicular problem that is facing Delhi, in effect helping mitigate some amount of air pollution in the city. Delhi, which has a car density of 424 cars per 1,000 people, should be mandating the use of FASTag, according to Nilekani.

Nilekani says that the FASTag can be used to implement congestion pricing which can change dynamically based on traffic, and the government can incentivise carpooling by having lower congestion pricing for such vehicles. FASTags could also be used to implement the policy recommendations of the NGT. Pollution Under Control certificates can be tied to FASTags and governments can also scale the odd-even schemes in an automated manner, says Nilekani.

According to Nilekani, there is a lot of good that can come out of making FASTags mandatory, but policy-makers need to act soon before the policy window closes, i.e., while the air pollution matter is still fresh in our memory.


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