Bhim Wadhwa, President, AIMTC
1. What is AIMTC’s position on the odd-even number-plate scheme? Will it help or hinder the movement of commercial vehicles?
If the odd-even number plate system is implemented on Commercial Vehicles then it will again put the movement of commercial vehicles into regressive mode. It would delay movement of goods and material and essential perishable items in particular.
It will also provide another avenue for law enforcers to extort and fleece money from transporters, who have no defense against the accusations and faults they find with vehicles or drivers and enhance corruption in the system. Delay will also attract additional demurrage for the delay, which again is difficult to pass on to the consumer and has to be borne by the truckers.
2. Commercial vehicles have come under severe criticism for the pollution they cause, what does AIMTC see as a fair and sustainable solution to this issue?
AIMTC has always maintained that combating pollution needs a holistic approach wherein all the stakeholders must contribute for the check and improvement of the environment. By and large the Government and the judiciary seem to have targeted a vulnerable sector and put all the blame on it for all ills.
1.0) Earlier NGT and Supreme Court had imposed a ban on commercial vehicles of 15 years age or more, but that ban could not improve the quality of air in the city. Now they have come for ban on more 10 years old vehicles. However, it is guaranteed that merely targeting commercial vehicles won’t achieve the desired objective, so then will they reduce the age for commercial vehicles to 5 years or so in the future?
The decision for fixing age of vehicles without considering technological advancements, road infrastructure and international standards defies logic.
2.0) The ban on 10-year old diesel commercial vehicles in Delhi had sent a shockwave among the entire fraternity of road transport sector, especially of Delhi / NCR as their livelihood is snatched by this single pronouncement.
More than 85% of the trucking population comprise single or two truck owners and with the banning of their trucks their entire investment in their most precious asset is wasted. It will also adversely impact on the livelihood of lakhs of truckers and survival of their family.
3.0) Lack of adequate infrastructure: The Government too failed to allow bio-fuels into commercial use and expedite the 135 km long KMP corridor, also known as the Delhi Western Peripheral or Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway, that would allow vehicles to bypass Delhi / NCR.
4.0) The trucks in Delhi / NCR run on diesel only and there is no alternative eco-friendly fuel available. We strongly oppose singling out the diesel vehicles, especially the commercial vehicles for the purpose of cleaning the air because there are many other factors are in play.
The ban so pronounced, by whatever logic or rationale, is parochial and is not seen through the prism of practical implications. It would adversely impact the economy and the consumers as the movement of vehicles carrying essential goods into Delhi / NCR will get reduced leading to scarcity and rise in cost of commodities.
3. How much of a role does technology advancement play in more efficient commercial vehicle operations in India? In terms of vehicle technology as well as using more ICT in tracking trucks and their movements, tolling & taxation, etc.
The ban is counter-productive to better technology for commercial vehicles. Better trucks means more money, but how will a trucker make money and pay off the loan on the truck within 10 years? Costly technological advanced vehicles may not be economically viable under such dictatorial orders.
On the other side, efforts must be focused and directed to make emerging and clinically tested technologies commercially available and economically viable like clean fuel (eg. fuel from water, hydrogen, hHybrid vehicles, lowering the cost and development of electricity), emission neutralizing components, road safety features etc.
All this requires a holistic planning of the vehicle, fuel, infrastructure, tolling, tracking systems and so on, which is not happening, and instead there are knee-jerk populist actions being taken.
4. Will the passing of GST help commercial vehicles move faster across state borders?
Whatever may proclaimed by the pundits of GST, the contention that the vehicles will move faster after GST is implemented is highly doubtful. The intermittent stoppage by RTOs, police and 18 other sundry authorities on the slightest of pretexts to fleece money from truckers is retarding the movement of the vehicles. In our country the vehicles move approx 250 km per day inspite of the fact that the driver is at the wheels for 14 to 16 hours that too after we claim to have international standard road infrastructure and technology advanced vehicles.
It is presumed that with GST the commercial tax check-posts will be removed but CTOs (Chief Transport Officers), as they currently do, stop vehicles running on the highways and direct them into the city limits to extort money. Will such corrupt practices die down? It seems highly unlikely when the tentacles of corruption connect from top to bottom.
Moreover, the tax rate is likely to go up leading to costlier movement. The biggest demand of our transport sector to keep diesel in GST regime is also sidelined and the effort is on for dual GST regime.
Thus it seems nothing will change on the ground at least for the transport sector except an increase of taxes.
5. What are some of your proposals that would help to reduce pollution and make travel better for the people of Delhi?
1.0) We too look forward to contribute to improving the air quality in the country, but for that a holistic approach has to be worked out. ‘Fitness Norms’ instead ‘Age of Vehicles’ should be the criteria for banning the vehicle. The diesel vehicle’s emission norms could be worked out by Transport Department & Environment Ministry and the ban on vehicles not conforming to emission norms could have come in a phased manner. We request that if the emissions of the vehicles are under control, they should be allowed to ply
2.0) Overdrive Mode for Increased Afforestation: Air pollution can be countered by intensive planting of trees in Delhi / NCR. NGT while banning all pollution emitting sources should ask the horticultural department and environment ministry to get into an overdrive towards afforestation and plantation of trees, just like the Delhi Government did during the Commonwealth Games.
CAUSATIVE AGENTS OF POOR AIR QUALITY IN CITY OF DELHI.
1) Poor quality of fuel :- The fuel that is sold by OMCs and their outlets is being used by road users. The quality of fuel is never upgraded and there is rampant adulteration of diesel with kerosene by marketers.
2) Mobile towers working 24x7 on diesel generators within the residential areas They not only cause air pollution but their radiations are equally harmful.
3) Garbage (including plastic) being burned by MCD staff.
4) MSMEs, SMEs emitting fumes and waste in the city.
5) Industries emitting smoke and other effluents.
6) Diesel and petrol vehicles that are moving at snail’s pace due to intermittent stoppages by various authorities, entry barriers, toll booths etc, traffic police and other authorities are more harmful and carcinogenic than diesel & petrol.
8) Unabated growth of vehicle population :- One vehicle per family could be the norm.
It is submitted that instead of playing a blame-game, all stakeholders must be involved in finding some tangible solution to this major problem.
1) GO GREEN : The Environment Ministry & Horticulture Department must be sensitized and put into an over drive to green cities of India. Afforestation and plantation must be done on war footing. This will definitely help in improving the air quality of the cities in the country.
2) OMCs BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE : Oil companies have garnered huge profits due to decline in international crude oil prices and undue patronage of the government of the day. Little have they done to either improve quality of the fuel (by reducing sulphur and particulate content) refineries or increasing its efficiency.
It is an open fact that fuel in the country is adulterated and there is no check on its perpetrators. The onus of this lies on the oil companies. The reduction in sulphur particulate content could be done at the refinery level.
3) ROBUST PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM & INFRASTRUCTURE : The Government is slack is providing a robust public transport system. Their planning is more ad hoc than futuristic. Any decision that is advantageous for the environment and people of the city rather than lobbyists for commercial gains must be fast tracked, eg. monorail yet to be launched.
The KMP corridor, which would have eased most of the Delhi problem, was shelved by the Central Government but now is revived on stern rap the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Electric Cars, Bikes, & Bicycles should be encouraged and promoted for intra – city movement.
4) FREIGHT TERMINALS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY : We suggest secured freight terminals on the outskirts of cities where commercial vehicles could be stationed and smaller battery based vehicles could bring in the goods in the cities.
5) ROLE OF AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY : On the technology front, automotive manufacturers must be prompted to indulge in proactive R&D to come up with green vehicles and better emission engines, which is not being done. Incentive must be given for electric & hybrid vehicles and technology that is now available at prototype stage must be made commercially viable.
6) ALTERNATIVE CLEAN FUEL / BIO-FUEL : The Government must also be prompted to bring in commercially available alternative clean fuel in the country, just like Audi has brought water diesel made from water & air.
7) USE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO REDUCE EMISSIONS: Bring in new technologies available in developed world so that emissions are reduced before their meeting with the environment. This will help improve efficiency of old vehicles and hence their age due to reduced vehicles.
8) FITNESS NOT “AGE” BE THE CRITERIA : Coming to diesel vehicles, we submit that age of the vehicle cannot be a criteria for pollution as it is the FITNESS level of the vehicle that lead to the emissions beyond prescribed norms or not.
If the vehicle is properly maintained and serviced, the emissions are within the norms prescribed than the FITNESS is awarded by the Transport Department. If it is so, then the vehicles should be allowed to ply as FITNESS is an annual feature and without which the vehicle cannot ply on road.
Further, even if the vehicle is not fit and emitting fumes beyond the prescribed norms, then the engine could be faulty and reasonable time be given to get it repaired or changed (till then fitness may not be given). The whole body should not be banned or impounded. Change of engine or new vehicle should be incentivized.
Going by the technological advancement in the world, better quality engines to meet higher emission standards could be rolled out by auto manufacturers. An undertaking to rectify the damage or to change the engine should suffice.
9) SEAMLESS MOVEMENT OF VEHICLES : Efforts must be made for seamless movement in the country and simplified solutions be adopted by the central and state governments.
TOLL BARRIER FREE INDIA: Tolls and checkpost barriers must be removed across the country on National / State Highways, Municipal or District roads. The concern for revenue could be taken care of through simplified and online payment solutions. Restricting traffic lead to congestion and hence pollution in the country.
Technologies are available whereby durable flyovers could be constructed within two weeks but due to lack of political and administrative will, the projects linger on for years, leave alone months, leading to cost escalations, delays and snail pace of traffic movement.
10) OVERLOADING IS ALSO ONE OF THE CAUSATIVE AGENT TOWARDS POLLUTION : Inspite of plethora of laws to combat this menace, it could not be controlled because of various reasons. Till now the trucker and transporter is made the scapegoat of overloading as it remains the most vulnerable and easy prey. The real perpetrators of overloading, the consignor, consignee and the law enforcers who coercively allow the over loaded to traverse overloaded vehicles across the country. They must be made accountable.
The Supreme Court / NGT instead of falling into the trap of certain lobbyists and issue surgical orders, must work with the Government in futuristic planning of the cities which have maximum green cover, robust public transport system and minimal restrictions or stoppages on roads.
As responsible citizens of the country we stand for clean environment but cannot be a mute spectator to loss of livelihood of crores of people associated with the trade.
We therefore suggest that in order to work out a pragmatic solution to this BIG problem, all stakeholders must sit down together and brainstorm for the plausible solutions and pragmatic decisions along with strong political and citizens will.