It was a celebratory moment at Dayanand Kashyap’s home about two months ago. After having remained a taxi driver for over a decade, he took a second-hand Innova car home with a hope to run his own travel business. Just a month later, all his dreams are on the verge of shattering. He bought a seven-year-old car and he has <g data-gr-id="126">only</g> three-year window to earn through this vehicle and waive off his loan worth Rs 3 lakh. National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) proposed <g data-gr-id="125">ban</g> on 10-year-old diesel vehicles in the national Capital has led millions of <g data-gr-id="107">cars-owners</g> and used-car dealers into a state of complete gloom. Millions of other <g data-gr-id="108">stake holders</g>’ business prospects are also hanging in <g data-gr-id="124">balance</g>.
Experts believe that the decision has been taken to address the contentious issue of pollution that these vehicles are causing to the environment. It is a known fact that diesel vehicles contribute more to air pollution than their other siblings that run on petrol or CNG. Although the move can be considered to be a noble one, it has had some cascading effects on a host of people and business segments.
Used car markets badly hit
The National Capital Region (NCR), comprising Delhi and adjoining areas, accounts for nearly 18 <g data-gr-id="102">per cent</g> of India’s overall cars sales and is also the largest used car market. Diesel so far accounted for almost a third of the sales. “The situation is already severe in the used-car market, where prices have tanked for diesel cars and few takers are left for vehicles that are older than seven-eight years. For instance, prices have dropped from 40-60 <g data-gr-id="103">per cent</g> for pre-used diesel cars. A six-seven-year-old Ford Endeavour now costs as low as Rs 2 lakh, compared with Rs 8 lakh earlier, and an eight-year-old Mahindra Scorpio can be yours for Rs 1 lakh,” said Rais Malik, owner of Islam Motors- a well-known second-hand car dealer at Panchsheel Park in South Delhi.
It is clear, thus, that “the order adds to the woes in a segment where sales have already lost momentum because of the narrowed price difference between diesel and petrol, after the government lifted diesel subsidies last year. Several of India’s <g data-gr-id="111">auto makers</g> had tweaked production to meet growing demand for diesel vehicles a couple of <g data-gr-id="121">year</g> ago when the subsidy had kept diesel much cheaper than petrol. With a reversal in consumer preference now, these companies will likely have to readjust production plans to make more petrol cars,” states a report on automobiles.
India’s used or pre-owned car market, although having been around for many years, has gained <g data-gr-id="120">traction</g> of late with major car manufacturers like Maruti and Mahindra entering the pre-owned car business in a big way. These organised players have their own used car resale bodies which provide used cars, which are in better condition, to their customers at a lesser price.
Dealers are facing a serious loss with the deliberate delay from the car-buyers from other neighbouring states. “People from Punjab and Haryana have stopped coming to Delhi for <g data-gr-id="101">used-cars</g> as they are eyeing the cheapest deals after the ban is <g data-gr-id="115">official</g> implemented in the national Capital. So dealers across Delhi are facing grave losses as customers are for buying such cars at almost half rates,” says Imran Hussain, a car dealer at Lajpat Nagar.
Is something seriously wrong in the rule?
“Suppose Ram owns a seven-year-old diesel car for his personal use and is in good condition. Shyam owns another diesel car for his travel agency which is just four-year-old. Whose car is dangerous to the environment? <g data-gr-id="130">Ofcourse</g>, Shyam’s. Now with NGT’s vague decision, all those car-owners will suffer whose cars are fit, well-maintained yet not permitted to come on the road. While those, who ply vehicles round the clock and release more pollution, will not lose anything, explains Nasir Malik, who is into the used-car business (Prime Motors) at Sheikh Sarai. While another <g data-gr-id="128">dealer</g> Narendra Chauhan poses a question, “How can government give 12-year age to a diesel vehicle on the registration certificate (RC) at first place? And if now car-owners are being asked to stop their vehicles two-year before its age, it’s a clear <g data-gr-id="131">mis</g>-commitment at the authorities’ end. And what is about those luxury cars whose price is above Rs 1 crore and they are nicely kept and maintained.”
Some other experts also feel the ban on more than 10-year-old diesel vehicles may affect the consumers, but the impact may not be <g data-gr-id="117">very huge</g> if No Objection Certificates (NOC) and transfer process is expedited. “Delhi Transport Authority has stopped providing the NOCs to vehicles which <g data-gr-id="116">is</g> causing a hurdle in transferring the vehicle to some other states as it’s not a nation-wide ban so far. So, if government speeds up the process of NOCs, much impact won’t be felt in other parts of the country, at least for now”, said an auto expert.
Annual fitness for all
Some other experts also are of the opinion that age of the vehicle alone cannot be the parameter of <g data-gr-id="106">it’s</g> validity. In many of the countries, <g data-gr-id="105">fitness</g> test is the only way to check the vehicle’s condition. It should be made mandatory for all private and commercial vehicles to procure fitness test in government-run labs. It’s possible that just a five-year-old vehicle failed the test a 12-year-old is permitted to ply on the roads. It should solely be based on the condition of the vehicle no matter old it has turned to be.
“This system will encourage people to be little sensitive towards <g data-gr-id="110">environment</g> and to take good care of their vehicles to get fitness certificates, said Amar Singh, a car scrap dealer at Mayapuri scrap market. Mayapuri is the biggest hub of <g data-gr-id="109">car-scrap</g> in Delhi. Over 20,000 families are winning bread and butter from the business of spare parts, dismantling and melting of the metal and other pursuits of junk. “With the impending threat of <g data-gr-id="113">ban</g> on old cars, the used-car spare market worth crores is going be severely hit. Gradually, our business will end up to mere junk dealing after no car of more than 10-year of age will run on Delhi roads. Our business solely depends on older cars whose parts are to be changed after a certain period,” said Amar Singh.
Some relief still expected
As an indefinite stay has been put on the proposed ban, many stakeholders still expect some relief from the tribunal. During a hearing on July 13, NGT suggested variable office hours for the government and private sector in Delhi to reduce vehicular pollution during peak hours and asked the government to deliberate with stakeholders on the suggestion. The tribunal’s deliberation on other options to reduce the pollution is an indication that it may soften its stance on diesel vehicles. The NGT bench asked the Centre to adopt innovative measures to tackle air pollution, while directing it to file a status report on the compliance of previous directives. While asking the Centre to deliberate on the idea of “variable working hours” with all stakeholders, the Tribunal said, “Variable working hours could be a solution. Courts and government offices in Delhi open at 10 am and, if we have a gap of one or two hours, this will help in reducing vehicular emissions immensely… Even business establishments’ working hours could be regulated.”
It added that the move could potentially reduce the pressure on autorickshaws, buses and the Metro and that the Centre could take universities along, while observing that “if a child can go to school at 7 am, why can’t a graduate”.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said that existing laws were sufficient but the need was for “effective implementation” and “long-term measures”. She added that steps were being taken to reduce air pollution in compliance with the Tribunal’s order.
The Tribunal also asked the Centre to submit a report about the implementation of its previous directions and the pollution percentage, in terms of dust, vehicles and burning of materials. It also asked the Centre to specify its view regarding the life of a vehicle, in terms of pollution emanating from its emissions.
Implementation still an uphill task
Delhi Traffic Police are still sturuggling to implement the tribunal’s November 2014 order banning all vehicles older than 15 years because they only have accumulative data that doesn’t take into account vehicles scrapped, sold or transferred. Some news reports suggest that since November 26, last year when the earlier order was delivered, only 1,100 vehicles have been impounded. Traffic police have also raised a valid issue that even if they identify all such polluting vehicles, where is the space to keep them? There would be many vehicles that may not pass the age test but could be emission efficient. According to a government report, Delhi has about six lakh registered diesel vehicles, including 86,000 commercial ones. The number of private diesel vehicles older than 10 years in the city is 1,18,773, while the number of commercial vehicles is 34,659.
Vehicular Pollution in Delhi
An official report says that 60 <g data-gr-id="162">per cent</g> of the air pollution caused in Delhi is by vehicular traffic.
Delhi, meanwhile, continues to pile on vehicles and layers of toxic pollutants. Already crowned the world’s most polluted city in terms of air quality, it adds 1,400 cars to its roads every day. In the last decade, the number of vehicles in Delhi has jumped by 97 <g data-gr-id="164">per cent</g>.
In 2000, diesel cars accounted for only four <g data-gr-id="163">per cent</g> of all car sales. Now half the cars sold survive on diesel. Public transport has not been able to keep pace. Despite a Supreme Court order saying Delhi should have 11,000 public transport buses, roughly 6,251 are in service.
An estimated 80,000 trucks enter and move out of the Capital every day, and a significant number of them are laden with cargo meant for consumption outside Delhi.