Supping with the devil

Published: Sunday 30 September 2001


-- Talk about politicians enlightening the public. The cng issue has become a slanging match for politicians in Delhi.

Each party looks for its own lobby of transporters blaming the other for the mess and joining the bus operators strike on August 10, 2001. Transporter Harish Sabherwal told the press, "We would have joined the Congress if they were sympathetic to our cause. However the Delhi mp s from bjp came to offer support." On the other hand, Shyam Lal Gola, president of Delhi Bus Ekta Manch, alleged that bjp was responsible for the present mess. "Madan Lal Khurana has forgotten that it was in his tenure that the Supreme Court ruled that cng is the best available option for green fuel."

Madan Lal Khurana, bjp national vice president, is very worried that bjp could lose the next elections in Delhi. He is, therefore, leading rallies and organising transporters' strikes bringing even greater woes to the public of Delhi. He promised the restive transporters a status quo and that he would get the Union government to issue an ordinance favouring low sulphur diesel (lsd) over cng . His heart bleeds for the autodrivers who stand in long queues. But he never says that is his party colleague, Union minister for petroleum and natural gas, Ram Naik, who is creating all the confusion by raising the bogey of inadequate gas to hinder implementation of the court order. Khurana has also remained silent about the dismal track record of the Union transport minister, B C Khanduri, another party colleague in framing appropriate safety and emissions guidelines for cng vehicles. His public position is to blame the Congress government in Delhi which never informed Naik that so many people were converting to cng .

But, sadly for Khurana his party leader, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, law minister, Arun Jaitley, and environment minister, T R Baalu, disagreed with the idea of an ordinance -- a real loss of face for Khurana. Jaitley said that such an ordinance would be an insult to the Supreme Court. Baalu said that cng was a good option for Delhi and stood by epca , an authority set up by his ministry.

Instead of misguiding transporters, Khurana could have easily taken the Delhi government to task for not providing fiscal incentives (like exemption of sales tax, low interest loans, etc) for those buying or converting to cng buses, just as it had done for autos and taxis under Supreme Court orders. But for that he needed to care about Delhi's air and our health. That's asking too much intelligence from the likes of politicos like him.

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