Odd Vs Even



You would not believe that the numbers we use or are assigned to – in many ways, control our lives.

For instance, when I bought my car last year with a number plate DL 8453 little did I know  its implications. According to the recently adopted odd-even number policy, I could now drive in Delhi only on Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays. For me Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will not be the days to drive as my license number plate ends with in odd  number. Only even numbered vehicles will be allowed to ply on Tuesdays, Thursdays and  Saturdays. This policy of alternate-day driving will be effective from January 01, 2016 in Delhi. A new year of behavior change, will begin.

[As soon as I learnt about this policy, I decided to change my number plate to ‘even’.  Saturday is a holiday for me and I would like to drive and take my family out, shop in the  city malls or visit friends. I am sure most of us would like to do so. I spoke to my agent about finding a way out with the RTO. The agent said that there is quite a rush and I will  have to be in a queue for the next six months. For new cars, getting an even numbered license plate will now be at the premium]

The city’s vehicular population, which causes choking air pollution and traffic jams,  includes about 2.7 million cars. The new odd-even policy will apply to a large bulk of  nearly nine million vehicles registered in Delhi, which adds about 1,500 new vehicles to its  roads every day. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Indian capital as the world’s most polluted, with 12 other Indian cities ranking among the worst 20.

In November and early December, Delhi’s air quality slumps to alarming levels, with concentration of PM2.5(very fine particles that get lodged inside the lungs and cause the most damage), soaring to 12 times above WHO’s safety levels of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The city gets a blanket of grey thick smog that lingers till the morning and evening hours.  While there is no reliable data on respiratory diseases, most doctors in the capital report a sharp spike in pollution-related illness during the winter months.

The policy of alternate-day driving is called ‘road rationing’. There are many variants of  road rationing possible. Road rationing could be for all the days or only for one or two days  a week or only during peak traffic hours of the day. Further, road rationing may be  applicable for the whole country, a city or for a zone in the city.

Road space rationing based on license numbers has been implemented in cities such as Athens (1982), SantiagoChile (1986 and extended 2001), México City (1989), Metro Manila (1995), São Paulo (1997), BogotáColombia (1998), La PazBolivia(2003), San JoséCosta Rica, (2005) countrywide in Honduras (2008), and QuitoEcuador (2010). More recent implementations in Costa Rica and Honduras  had the objective of reducing oil consumption, due to the high impact this import on their economies. Issue of air pollution was not the driver.

(taken from Wikipedia)

The Paris Story

On March 17, 2014, a partial driving restriction was imposed in Paris and its inner suburbs based on license plate numbers. The measure was issued by the city government in order to mitigate a peak in air pollution, caused by particulate matter (PM 10) attributable to vehicle emissions. Cars with even-numbered license plates and commercial vehicles over 3.5 tons were banned from entering the city from 5:30 a.m. until midnight. Electric and hybrid carsnatural gas-powered vehicles and carpools with three or more passengers were exempted.

Another peak in air pollution affected Paris and Northern France in mid-March 2015. The Mayor of ParisAnne Hidalgo, requested the central government to implement a driving restriction to mitigate the problem. The pollution index in Paris was at 93 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) on Friday 20, 2015, due to increased amounts of pollutant PM10. The accepted limit for PM10 was set at 50 mcg/m3, and the safe limit or alert threshold was  set at 80 mcg/m3 As the pollution episode continued on Saturday 21 according to Airparif measurements, the central government imposed a driving restriction on Monday 23 affecting cars with even-numbered license plates and commercial vehicles over 3.5 tons. As in the 2014 episode, complementary measures were implemented including reduced speed limits in the city, free public transportation, free residential parking, and free short-term use for subscribers of bike and car sharing services. The restriction was implemented in Paris and 22 towns located in the administrative region of Île-de-France.

In Beijing

On July 20, 2008, Beijing implemented a temporary road space rationing based on plate numbers in order to significantly improve air quality in the city during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Enforcement was carried out through an automated traffic surveillance network. The rationing was in effect for two months, between July 20 to September 20, as the Olympics were followed by the Paralympics from September 6 until 17. The restrictions on car use was implemented on alternate days depending on the plates ending in odd or even numbers. This measure was expected to take 45% of the 3.3 million car fleet off the streets. In addition, 300,000 heavy polluting vehicles were banned from July 1, and the measure also prohibited access to most vehicles coming from outside Beijing. Authorities decided to compensate car owners for the inconvenience, by exempting them from payment of vehicle taxes for three months. A pilot test was conducted in August 2007 for four days, restricting driving for a third of Beijing’s fleet, some 1.3 million vehicles. A 40% daily reduction of vehicle emissions was reported. A previous test carried out in November 2006 during the Sino-African Summit showed reductions of 40% in NOx auto emissions.


In the Delhi case, the odd and even number based driving will not apply to ambulances and other vehicles used for essentials and maintenance of law in order. (Perhaps, these vehicles should be issued number plates ending with zero). Exemptions will not be made  for VIP vehicles. Perhaps, VIPs will be permitted to have two vehicles – one with odd and other with even number plate.

The odd-even policy in Delhi is expected to hit the car pooling communities as now they will have to ensure that the pool includes both odd-number and even-number plate holders so that the transportation continues to happen. So there will have to be new conversations. There seems to be no special policy for exempting the carpooling community as done in Paris

Those car owners who hire drivers will probably cut down their salaries to half as driving  will happen now only for 3 days in a week. This will lead to loss in the income of the city’s driver community and protests will be expected. Some believe that this will lead to driver  sharing models – i.e. a driver will work for one odd number plate owner and one even number plate owner. In the process, there will be savings at the owners end. Private taxi  operators like Uber and Ola will look at the odd-even policy perhaps as an opportunity.  But many feel that this policy will encourage people to own two vehicles – one with odd and one with even number plate. This will be good news for the car makers and  not-so-good for the housing societies where car parking is already an issue. It has also been suggested that Delhi makes the use of the Metro free. This will greatly reduce vehicles on the road and the resulting air emissions. The health damage reduced i.e. savings to the citizens will be much more than the loss to the Metro in this process! It will be an interesting exercise for the environmental economists. Indeed, the odd-even policy will lead to a major socio-economic impact that will need to be carefully studied.

I got a call from my Professor friend who is advising the Delhi Government on such matters

“What is your house number?” he asked

When I told him, it is A-7, Munirka – he said “Well Prasad – be prepared now for the next  move. The odd-even number policy will soon be expanded to schedule water supply to the  flat or a house. Odd-numbered houses will receive water only on Mondays, Wednesdays  and Fridays and those with even numbers will get water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If you are looking forward to take a tub bath on Saturday morning for example,  then better change your house or house number to even – right now! The idea of water rationing on this basis is devised to help meet the ever-increasing water demand of the city”.

I told the Professor that in most cities in India water is supplied on alternate days  anyways, irrespective of the oddeven policy. But the Professor was in no mood to listen.

I however realized the seriousness of being the ‘odd’ person out. So I thought of checking  ‘all my numbers’ that define my assets and existence. I decided that I change to ‘even’ numbers on a mission mode. You never know when the Kejriwal Government will come up  with rules such as “You cannot dial out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from mobile  phones that end in an odd number, or you cannot transact credit cards ending in an odd number on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!!” On checking out, I found that in most of the times I was at ‘odds’. That was worrisome.

While fervently checking the status of my numbers, a thought came to my mind – Mondays to Saturdays is fine as a split based on odd-even counts – but what happens to  the Sunday? Who can drive and who cannot? And no one is talking about that!

I called up the Professor. He said “Good question – ask Chief Minister Kejriwal”

Cover image sourced from https://colwell2013-14.wikispaces.com/Odd+and+Even?responseToken=0c0a577e292e1194595d24c5635e8228a

See more on Delhi’s efforts to curb air pollution





  1. Is the proposal on water supply serious? Unlike road restrictions where one is expected to use alternate means of transport, there is no alternate mean for water supply. Drilling of borewells is already restricted. How are the residents expected to cope with this?

  2. Prasad- I was in Paris, in 1997, I think it was peak summertime, when they implemented their Odd/Even for the first time due to alarming smog level the day prior……I finished my meeting in the early afternoon, and my Client suggested I visit the Louvre ( never seen it before)…and that day it was open until 9 pm, with half-price entry after 4 pm. So this Gujju got to see the Louvre at half-price, with free subway rides to-and-fro ( Public Transport was free that day)!

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