Transporters and cab aggregators have demanded separate registration of all-India tourist permit taxis and at least five years to phase out their diesel-run vehicles.
The transporters suggested the measures at a meeting with the Delhi government and the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Wednesday.
The meeting was organised a day after the Supreme Court gave two days to the Delhi government to come up with a plan to phase out diesel taxis in the city. Protesting cab drivers have blocked roads, causing traffic snarls in Delhi-NCR.
Headed by EPCA chairman Bhure Lal and director general of Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain, transporters with all-India tourist permits (AITP), cab aggregators Ola and Uber, transport commissioners from Delhi and neighbouring states, and Delhi Traffic Police officials participated in the session.
The Delhi government is likely to demand a clear ruling on the operation of AITP cabs that run on diesel. “Neither the Supreme Court nor the EPCA order laid any restriction on the AITP cabs. However, it has suggested a ban on future registration of such vehicles in the Capital. The EPCA order mentioned that these taxis cannot operate point-to-point in the Capital. In the next hearing, we will seek clarity from the SC on the issue,” said a Delhi government official.
“The idea is to work together and avoid confusion. However, the sanctity of the court order should also not be disrupted,” said Lal.
The suggestions and concerns presented in the meeting will be collated and a report will be submitted to the Supreme Court soon.
Transporters and cab aggregators said the conversion of diesel-run cabs into CNG is an expensive exercise.
“Since diesel cabs cannot directly be converted into CNG, the cost is very high. Several of our driver partners have said that they have to first convert their cars into petrol and then get a CNG retrofit. This costs at least R3.5 lakh,” said an Ola representative.
Narain said the report will include the request of including ‘dual fuel’ as an alternative.
“This is a genuine concern as AITP drivers go across the country and CNG is not available in several states. The conversion is also expensive. They should be allowed to convert their fleet either into petrol, CNG, or any other eco-friendly fuel,” she said.
Five years for phase-out
Transporters said since the average life of a commercial taxi is about eight years, at least five years should be given to them to phase out their existing fleet.
“Many of us have new cabs and the time to pay the EMIs is from four to five years. We should be given time to phase the existing fleet out. The government, meanwhile, can stop registration of new diesel-run cabs,” said a transporter.
Several officials, however, said that in an order in 1998, the Supreme Court had stated that all public transport such as buses, autos and taxis should run on CNG. The registration of all cabs after the date was in violation of the order.
The cab operators also demanded that there should be separate registration and distinct identity for tourist cabs.
“We provide cabs to government guests, dignitaries and international tourists. Since our fleet is registered in Delhi but we do not ply as city taxis there should be a separate identification for us so that we do not have to bear the brunt of the court order,” said Sarabjit Singh, secretary of Indian Tourist Transporters Association.
The enforcement agencies agreed that their job will become easier if there is a mark which distinguishes an AITP vehicle from city taxis running on diesel.
“Till that time we have had to stop the car and check the fuel stickers. It will become easier if these tourist cabs are given a sticker to differentiate them,” said a senior traffic official.