SC order on diesel taxis, a fair verdict

SC order on diesel taxis, a fair verdict

Taking a pragmatic view, the Supreme Court has relaxed ban on diesel taxis in Delhi National Capital Territory Region (NCR), permitting a phase-out plan to get rid of these vehicles, blamed for polluting cities. Instead of shunting about 35,000 taxis out of the national capital and the adjoining suburbs lock, stock and barrel from May 1 as per its earlier order, the apex court has allowed the existing fleet to run till permit of each of the vehicles completes its 5 year tenure. This means, the phase-out would be completed in 5 years and not give a shock treatment to the commuters and drivers as also the multi-billion dollar IT and ITES industry which employ several lakhs of young boys and girls in back offices of global companies, located in Gurgaon and Noida. While the earlier decision of a complete ban from May 1 was quite harsh and impractical to implement, the new ruling appears to be a fair play. Asking for more relief or telling the court to stay out of the pollution control business, leaving it to the executive alone, would be equally wrong. The courts, like the executive and the legislature, do have a shared responsibility to ensure that our cities do not end up as gas chambers.

 Whether it is Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), petrol or diesel, the focus has to be on clean fuel meeting global standards like BS-VI, causing minimum pollution. Once the Indian automobile industry and the oil refineries are able to fulfill the advanced target of 2020 for BS-VI emission norms, the cities should have a better quality of air. It enjoins on the media, NGOs and the regulators to keep building pressure on the vehicle manufacturers and the refineries about the deadline all through these years. Otherwise, we may again be confronted with a situation where lobbies to shift the goal posts become active as we are near the deadline.The third and the most important way to keep cities green is to go in for massive investment in public transport including the modern and people-friendly infrastructure that should not only include wide roads for cars but is also attuned to buses which should come up in different category of passengers in terms of their paying capacity. The car users would not find it easy to shift to ramshackle state road transport corporation buses unless they are given a different option of premium buses, though at higher fares. No strata of the commuters should be left uncovered, as has happened in the telecom sector.

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