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Government to urge SC to revoke ban on diesel taxis in Delhi

With hundreds of taxi drivers blocking NH8 highway and the ring road to protest against the action taken by agencies to implement the Supreme Court order banning diesel taxis in the capital, the central government has decided to request the court to reconsider the ban.  

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the ban has created an unprecedented situation of thousands of taxis getting off road and people facing severe hardships. The minister said he had received reports of massive traffic jams and thousands of people not being able to go to work.

The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting, attended by Gadkari, Heavy Industries Minister Anant Geete and Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar.

The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to extend the April 30 deadline fixed for conversion of diesel cabs into less-polluting CNG mode for plying on city roads, sending off-road thousands of diesel taxis, including those run by aggregators like Ola and Uber.

According to the Delhi transport department, about 60,000 taxis are registered in the national capital of which 27,000 run on diesel.

Gadkari said the government respects the Supreme Court and is committed to the issue of environment and has already taken a slew of steps to curb pollution.  “In the last two years, our government has taken a series of steps to control pollution,” he said. “We have decided to again put forward all these points to the Supreme Court and request it to reconsider its decision.”

He went on to list the measures taken by the government in the past two years to curb pollution in Delhi and other parts of the country.

In January, the government said India will move to the toughest emission standards of BS-VI from the current BS-IV by 2020, skipping an intermediate level.

The government has also put out a concept note on a policy for scrapping old vehicles, banned stubble burning (the setting on fire of plant debris after wheat and other grains are harvested) in states neighbouring Delhi and offered incentives for the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.

The government will inform the Supreme Court of such measures, which had not been communicated until now, in seeking a reversal of the ban on diesel taxis, Gadkari said. The case will be heard next on 9 May.

“The government has now to come up with a strategy to enforce the Supreme Court order. The larger issue remains that dieselisation with present technology is not in favour of our health,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, at Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

On December 16, the top court made it mandatory for taxis to shift to CNG, doubled entry tax on trucks into the city and took 10-year-old commercial vehicles powered by diesel off Delhi’s roads.

Cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber and taxi fleet operators plying in Delhi were asked to start using CNG as fuel before March 31.