New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS): Even-numbered vehicles virtually went off the roads in the Indian capital on Friday as Delhi kickstarted a path-breaking odd-even vehicle restriction policy to battle rising pollution.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he was overwhelmed by the response of the people towards the January 1-15 trial run that seeks to allow on roads only odd-numbered four-wheeled vehicles on odd dates and even-numbered vehicles on even dates.
"I am truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far. There are very few even-numbered cars on the roads. The plan seems to have been successful," the Aam Aadmi Party leader told media persons.
He said the people of Delhi accepted the scheme whole-heartedly. "I am confident that in the next five years people will show the way to the rest of the country."
Setting a personal example, Kejriwal, who has been chief minister since February 2015, said he shared his car to go to office with two ministers, his personal secretary and a joint secretary.
Delhi Police agreed that most of Delhi was abiding by the odd-even policy.
"There have been very few violations," Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sharad Aggarwal told IANS. "Even those who violated the restriction had some valid reason... or they were among those exempted.
"Most people, our officers say, are following the scheme."
The government has said violators would be fined Rs 2,000. But police officers said fining was not their main aim.
A police officer said: "We are using the day to educate people about the odd-even scheme. We are telling motorists that this is for the good of all. We are distributing leaflets too."
The restriction policy has many exemptions, however, including two-wheelers, cars driven by women, emergency vehicles and a string of VIPs.
With nearly 90 lakh vehicles registered in Delhi, cars account for nearly a third.
East Delhi resident Amrish Mishra told IANS that he spotted only two even-numbered vehicles as he drove all the way to Safdarjung Airport in south Delhi.
Added A. Mahalingam, a south Delhi resident: "I saw only four even-numbered vehicles on the roads today. Two were driven by women and the two other cars were clearly violating the rule."
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai, who came to work with Kejriwal, told IANS: "It is a historic step towards reducing pollution level in the city. People are following the odd-even formula."
He said he did not use his car on Friday as his was an even-numbered one.
Rai later took a bus ride to find out how the Delhi Transport Corporation was faring. Delhi Metro said it ran 70 additional trips in the morning but the anticipated extra rush was not there and the trains afforded a less crowded comfortable journey.
Although the chief minister and the lieutenant governor are exempt from the scheme, Kejriwal had said he would abide by it.
Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra rode a motorcycle to Delhi Secretariat. He said he would continue to do so until January 15 if he did not get to car pool.
Another minister, Imran Hussain, took an e-rickshaw to go to office.
Environmentalists have welcomed the odd-even restriction policy which is expected to sharply cut down the number of vehicles on Delhi's roads, but they are not sure how effective it will be in curbing pollution.
And although embassies too have been exempted, the US and French embassies have said they will abide by the odd-even policy.