A day after industry body Nasscom voiced concern over the ban on diesel cabs in the NCR, the Centre moved the Supreme Court on Thursday saying the order had hit the flourishing BPO sector.
“The court order has given rise to security concerns as women employees need to be dropped at night,” solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, adding the Centre would move a formal application on Friday.
The solicitor general said BPO (business process outsourcing) units that hired diesel cabs to pick and drop employees could consider moving operations out of India if the ban continued. “It (order) has badly affected them. If the BPOs move out of the country, it will affect the economy,” Kumar said.
The court ordered on April 30 that no diesel cabs would ply in the NCR, declining them more time to switch to CNG. Aimed at bringing down pollution levels in the Capital that has earned the tag of the world’s most polluted city, the top court’s first order against diesel-run commercial vehicles had come in December.
The bench asked if companies could hire CNG buses.
“It is not feasible,” Kumar said. “The employees have to be dropped outside their houses. Women workers cannot be left on the roads because buses can’t enter small lanes. It is a matter of security.”
The court asked Kumar to suggest how its order could be complied with. The Delhi government — which on Tuesday sought more time to phase out diesel cabs — also has to submit a detailed plan for the court’s consideration on May 9.
BPOs are a $25-billion industry in India, of which the NCR contributes $5 billion. The sector employs 250,000 people in the NCR who are ferried mostly by diesel cabs.
According to Nasscom, if the ban continues for six to nine months, the industry faces a potential loss of $1 billion.
After an emergency meeting of industry players on Thursday, Nasscom BPM Council chairman Keshav Murugesh said, “We need immediate relief as this involves the delivery of critical operations to clients outside India. Half of the workforce of this industry is women and their safety is paramount. We hope the judiciary appreciates our predicament and resolves it by delaying the implementation.”
“The infrastructure is not ready… and if still implemented without careful planning around alternates, it (the order) can lead to disastrous consequences. We will work with the government, IT ministry and judiciary.”
On behalf of the city’s radio taxi operators, senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta told the top court his clients were CNG-compliant. “Radio taxis strictly operate under the Delhi government rules that categorically state they have to run on clean fuel. The same rule does not apply to vehicles registered under All India Tourist Permit (AITP). But instead of ferrying tourists, these AITP cabs run as local taxis,” Gupta complained.
The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) – an SC-appointed panel – said diesel taxis could be allowed to phase out over the next five years. Informing the court about the EPCA’s meeting with Delhi government officials and other stakeholders, advocate Aparajita Singh said a final decision was likely to be taken to register only petrol and CNG cabs.
CSE director general Sunita Narain said diesel cabs should not be registered in Delhi. Citing International Council on Clean Transportation estimates, she said cancer risk from diesel vehicles in Delhi was four times that posed by petrol cars.
Automobile industry body SIAM’s director-general Vishnu Mathur said, “If the vehicles are meeting statutory norms, then where is the question of calling the industry or the vehicle a polluter? BS-IV vehicles account for only 0.5% of the pollutants.”
Inputs from Sunny Sen and Mallica Joshi