December 6, 2017
"ODD EVEN" SYSTEM FOR RESTRICTING NUMBER OF CARS ON ROADS - IRAQI STYLE
Delhi Government is again going to introduce “odd even” rule for vehicles. And this time it is on orders from High Court. Moreover, it is going to be stricter this time. News is that there will be no exception and the “odd even” will be applicable to ALL vehicles.
This news took me back 36 years. I was in Iraq teaching at the University of Baghdad. It was Saddam Hussain’s time. The Iran - Iraq war had started just a few months back.
An aerial view of Baghdad city
One day the Irani aircrafts bombed the oil refinery of Iraq from where petrol was coming to Baghdad. This caused an unexpected shortage of petrol in Baghdad city. To ease the situation, the government passed a mid night order and made an announcement of radio and TV that all the private cars with odd numbers will run on one day and those with even numbers on next day. As it used to happen there, the order became effective with immediate effect. In the morning we found some of colleagues travelling with us in the University buses that used to carry faculty and staff from Baghdad city to the Agriculture College campus at Abu Gharaib, located about 22 miles from city centre.
This order continued for a few days till the refinery could start working again.
Famous sculpture at Sadoon Street, the most fashionable street Baghdad
Prosperity had just begun to come to people of Iraq. So many people did not have private cars. But still a few of our colleagues used to come to college in their Mercedes. Saddam Hussain had made a rule. Anyone who returned back to Iraq after successfully completing his studies in a foreign university could bring with him a car of his choice DUTY FREE. Mercedes used to be the most popular choice.
Our Head of Department, Prof. Hikmat Nabulsi, also had a Mercedes. Sometimes he used to give us a ride in it. It was my first ride in a Mercedes car during the days when in India we used to have Ambassador and Fiat. One day my wife and two daughters, who were fourteen and twelve years old, also got a chance to travel in it. Naturally, they were also greatly excited about it. After we came back to India, both of them used to tell their friends with great pride that in Iraq, they had been travelling in Mercedes car.