Authorities in Delhi failed to implement on Sunday a Supreme Court order to begin collecting an environmental compensation from commercial vehicles entering the Capital, pushing into uncertainty the trial plan that aims to clear the city’s toxic air and ease traffic.
The agency authorised by the municipality to levy the so-called “green tax” said lack of a clear policy proved to be a major deterrent on the first day of the exercise and also raised doubts over successful deployment of the system in the near future.
“As per the order, we had to begin the tax collection from November 1, which means that the toll had to be collected starting 12am on Sunday,” said Kishore Agrawal, a partner in SMYR Consortium — the municipal corporation-appointed concessionaire. “We couldn’t initiate the collection process and it might not be possible in future either.”
The top court refused on Friday to defer the order it passed a few weeks ago announcing a compensation of Rs 700-Rs 1,300 to be imposed for four months on commercial vehicles entering Delhi from November 1, with the money to be used for improving the city’s roads.
Municipal corporation leaders and officials washed their hands of the issue, saying since the apex court ordered the concessionaire to collect the tax, the consortium would have to bear the consequences of not complying with the directive.
The SC’s decision came against the backdrop of the World Health Organization (WHO) last year declaring Delhi the world’s most polluted city, prompting embassies and international establishments to install air purifiers.
Agrawal said apart from other snags, traffic chaos and lack of trained staff to collect the tax proved to be major hurdles.
“A delay in issuing of receipts and collecting tax can lead to huge traffic jams. Since the tax is new, the staff is likely to be confronted by the truckers and we are concerned about their safety,” said Kishore. “Currently, we have a simpler system in place. We have to know if any trucks are exempted or if we can issue monthly passes to them under the new mechanism. These issues should have been clarified before imposing the tax.”
The pass system followed by the concessionaire allows trucks to enter and exit the city multiple times without any additional charges.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation is the nodal authority for collecting the tax from goods vehicles entering the city and signed a contract earlier this year with a private firm for the project.
As per the contract, the concessionaire will have to pay Rs 550 crore annually to the corporation for a period of five years even if it makes losses.