No truck with reason

It's a clear sell-out. The Union ministry of road transport and highways (MRTH) has given ground to truckers who ended their strike recently: the striking truckers had demanded a waiver on the proposed Mumbai High Court ban on 15-year-old commercial vehicles in the city. The ministry has helped them find a way around the ban

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- it is a clear sell-out. The Union ministry of road transport and highways (mrth) has given ground to truckers who ended their strike recently: the striking truckers had demanded a waiver on the proposed Mumbai High Court ban on 15-year-old commercial vehicles in the city. The ministry has helped them find a way around the ban.

Arguing in favour of the truckers, the ministry's public notice states: "The ministry of road transport and highways has consistently held the view that the age of a vehicle need not be the deciding factor for its scrapping. As long as vehicles meet the prescribed emissions, fitness and road safety related norms they should be allowed to ply on the roads." This is an open defiance of two court orders: that of the Mumbai High Court, as well as that of the Supreme Court in 1998 which fixed the age of commercial vehicles at 15 years in Delhi to control air pollution.

The ministry's Central Motor Vehicles Acts and Rules (cmvr) does not even record the current ban in Delhi. Worse, in its eagerness to assuage the truckers, the ministry has been silent on the existing legal provisions of the cmvr Act that already bars national permits to 12-year-old goods carriages and 15-year-old trucks on interstate routes. In doing this, mrth is ignoring the public health implications of the Act that requires retiring older and more polluting vehicles from long haul national routes to the city core.

The ministry, in fact, has gone further in its elaborate charade by putting in place an ineffectual emissions inspection regime (read puc certification) that gives a clean chit to polluting diesel vehicles and allows them unconditional passage in our cities.

Road transport caters to nearly 60 per cent of the freight movement in the country. This has resulted in the creation of a powerful lobby that manages to arm-twist the ministry and hold the entire country to ransom at will. In cahoots with it are our politically misguided leaders, who ignore issues of public health to pander to the economic interests of a few. Hard decisions such as banning 15-year-old commercial vehicles and moving the remaining city fleet of goods vehicles to cleaner fuels are the need of the hour, but who'll bell the cat?

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