The impact of the Supreme Court ban on diesel cabs is spreading beyond commuters and taxi drivers — the Delhi State Election Commission suddenly finds itself short of vehicles for municipal bypolls scheduled for May 15.
The poll panel had hired 120 commercial vehicles to ferry electronic-voting-machines (EVMs). But last Saturday’s court decision has reduced the fleet size to about a dozen cabs.
The commission was in the process of modifying these vehicles for poll duty — fitting them with radio equipment, GPS, beacons, special name plates and extra slotting cabins for EVMs — but this has now been halted, said officials.
“We are waiting for the final decision of the Supreme Court. But as a precaution, we have made a request to the Delhi government to help us (procure new vehicles),” said Delhi election commissioner Rakesh Mehta.
The top court’s refusal to extend an April 30 deadline for diesel taxis to switch to the cleaner CNG has put 50,000 cabs off Delhi-NCR roads. Corporate offices and BPOs have been especially hit as they use these vehicles for night drops.
In the face of protests and road blocks by taxi unions, both the Centre and Delhi government have sought more time from the court to phase out diesel cabs.
The bypolls have added another dimension to the problem.
Under a January 29 Delhi high court order that bypolls be conducted within three months, the commission has deployed 2,500 officials at 695 polling booths in 13 wards for the May 15 exercise. Nine of the wards have been without councilors — who take decisions on civic projects, including sanitation and infrastructure maintenance — since December 2013 and the rest since February 2015.