New Delhi: The odd-even scheme for road rationing of private cars will be reintroduced from 13 to 17 November, the Delhi government said on Thursday amid an alarming spike in air pollution in the national capital region.

On Thursday evening, the air quality index of the Delhi and national capital region (NCR) centred on it was 470, which is in the severe category. The average levels of the two deadliest air pollutants—Particulate Matter (PM) 10 and PM 2.5—across Delhi NCR on Thursday was 420 µg/m³ (over four times the safe limit) and 477 µg/m³ (nearly eight times the safe limit) respectively.

“Last 48 hours the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 have been very high and Delhi government has decided that from 13 to 17 November, odd-even will be rolled out. The real reason for this pollution is not the conditions in Delhi but the adjoining states and crop burning. We appeal to all residents to cooperate in this hour of crisis," Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot said.

He said the government was taking steps to increase availability of public transport and also ensure there is no surge pricing by ride-hailing companies, such as Ola and Uber.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi government last implemented the odd-even scheme in April 2016. Women, vehicles fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG), hybrid vehicles and two-wheelers are exempt from the odd-even scheme. Restrictions will be applicable from 8am to 8pm and a violation will attract a fine of Rs2,000.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took a serious view of the situation and observed that “state cannot leave its citizens to die due to the toxic haze".

It issued notices to the secretaries of union environment ministry, health ministry and ministry of ministry of road, transport and highways along with the chief secretaries of the Governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. NHRC also sought reports, within two weeks, from them about the effective steps taken and proposed to be taken to tackle the situation.

NHRC said the concerned authorities have not taken proper steps throughout the year to tackle this hazard, which amounts to a violation of the Right to Life and Health of the residents in the region.

The union environment ministry formed a seven-member committee headed by union environment secretary to continuously monitor the short-term and long-term solutions for tackling air pollution.

The committee will meet at regular, short intervals to draw up a plan and ensure enforcement. Members of the committee include secretary of the union ministry of science and technology, secretary of the department of biotechnology, additional Secretary of Niti Aayog, Delhi government’s chief secretary, Central Pollution Control Board’s chairperson and a representative from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

A meeting took place at the union environment ministry on Thursday to discuss the air pollution situation where it was decided that authorities would ensure closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers, intensification of public transport, sprinkling of water and mechanised sweeping of roads, ban on construction, etc.

“Although it’s a great welcome step at the best of it as a symbolic gesture, we can’t solely depend on such short-term initiatives in a worsening condition like this. Adding to it is smog which arises from crop burning and is being blamed as the major cause of the present air pollution. Pollution caused by the transport section is equally responsible and is prevailing throughout the year," said Sohinder Gill, Director-Corporate Affairs, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles.

“Today, the nation calls for an effective long-term sustainable initiative like introducing mass electric mobility system across India which can help reduce the rising carbon emissions," he added.

Mayank Aggarwal and Prashant K. Nanda contributed to this story.

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