NEW DELHI — Authorities barred many private vehicles from taking to the roads of India’s capital on Monday amid a public health crisis that has left New Delhi residents gasping and their eyes burning from toxic air pollution.

The “odd-even” scheme will allow private vehicles with odd-number license plates to drive on odd dates while even-numbered plates are allowed on even-numbered dates. It was begun days after authorities began emergency control measures and ordered the closure of schools as pollution levels reached a three-year high.

The state-run Central Pollution Control Board’s air quality index for New Delhi was “severe” at 436, about nine times the recommended maximum.

Air pollution in New Delhi and northern Indian states peaks in the winter as farmers in neighboring agricultural regions set fire to clear land after the harvest and prepare for the next crop season. The pollution in the Indian capital also peaks after Diwali celebrations, the Hindu festival of light, when people set off fireworks.

Traffic police officers, wearing protective masks, signaled cars to stop for not following the vehicle restrictions on Monday. New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed for residents to follow the rule and for private taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers to support it.

Authorities said almost 1.2 million registered vehicles in New Delhi will be off the road every day during the two-week restrictions.

World Health Organization data released last year gave India the dubious distinction of having the world’s 10 most polluted cities.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court on Monday sought accountability from state governments over the deteriorating air quality, saying the capital was choking every year, which “could not be allowed in a civilized country.”

The court ordered the New Delhi government to produce data or records to prove that the vehicle restrictions have reduced pollution.

Sheikh Saaliq is an Associated Press writer.