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Can giving up car for a day in Delhi `green up` our travel habits?

New Delhi: After decades of experiencing car-filled streets, Delhi observed its first ‘car-free day,’ or rather a ‘car-free morning’ on the Red Fort-India Gate stretch today. But one question lingers, “did this make our travel habits greener?”

Till yesterday, many people were unaware of the state government’s intensive campaign for traffic decongestion and reduction in air pollution, titled “Ab Bus Karen.” Today, as soon as the clock struck 12:00 pm, the 6 km ‘car-free zone’ was back to its jam-packed state.

It had to be. Today is Dussehra. What do you expect? It just didn’t seem to matter if the rising pollution, which is caused mainly by industry and vehicular traffic, is putting as many as 10,000 people at ‘premature death by breath’ risk per year.

This gambit may be a humble beginning towards getting people to use public transport, but for many, the decision to observe a car-free day on Dussehra was “hasty and impractical.”

“Car-free days are good, but they should take place on Sundays, not on the week days or running days,” said J.K., a tourist, who felt that his convenience was compromised because of this green tactic.

An unhappy metro-commuter said, “It didn’t have any effect. We need to make people more aware of such events. Such events should be held regularly. One family must have one car in order to make this initiative work.”

“We must stop politicising such events as the zeal to implement becomes much less. It was quite disgusting to see only Kejriwal and his ministers present at the event. Even the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung was missing,” he added.

Speaking on the effect of ‘car-free day,’ a female car user joked: “It was not successful as I myself came to office by car,” adding “the car-free campaign must take place pan-Delhi. A 6 km stretch is useless. And also, a specific interval must be decided for such events, something like Raahgiri.”

One of the auto-drivers, who were less enthusiastic about the whole thing, said “only one car free day won’t make any difference. Despite the efforts, the stretch will remain crowded because of Ram Leela and Dussehra.”

Today’s ‘car-free morning’ was observed from 7 am till noon in the wake of rising air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR). Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal even led a cycle rally to encourage people to go green. This event was joined by his cabinet colleagues and over 100 cyclists.

The inspiration comes from Gurgaon, which held its first car-free day on September 22, known on the Internet as World Car Free Day, in a bid to lower pollution and emphasise on the need to promote the use of cycle and carpooling.

With Delhi faring poorly in the air quality ranking, numerous initiatives are being taken to control the city’s air pollution levels. The only problem existing is the lack of information on air quality and precautionary measures. The process of tackling this problem is incomplete till people are aware and are ensuring precautionary measures.

By Pallavi Aman Singh (ANI)