From Sunday, commuters in Delhi-NCR may have to struggle to get cabs. After the Supreme Court on Saturday refused to extend the deadline for diesel taxis to switch to CNG, around 50,000 cabs are likely to go off road.
The order will not only affect diesel cabs with the All India Tourist Permit (AITP), but also the fleet of web-based cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber.
Cabs with the permit operate as tourist vehicles and cannot ply as city taxis, which have the pickup and drop points within Delhi-NCR. These vehicles ply with a registration series of DL 1Y.
At present, over 35,000 AITP diesel vehicles in Delhi will be affected by the order. Out of the 30,000 Ola cabs and 20,000 Uber cabs, around 5,000 and 8,000 are yet to switch to CNG.
The diesel SUV cabs can’t ply in the city because they cannot be converted into CNG.
The actual number of cabs off the road, however, will be less than 13,000 because many cabs run for both Ola and Uber.
“We are law abiding citizens and we will abide by the court orders. We will ply only CNG cabs,” a spokesperson for Ola said.
Sanjay Samrat, president of Delhi Taxi Transporters Association, said the ban on AITP vehicles would allow the police to harass taxi drivers.
“The issue is no longer about pollution. The government, through such orders wants to destroy local cab businesses and encourage cab aggregator services such as Ola and Uber. Around 30 lakh diesel vehicles under the Euro-4 category ply in Delhi and NCR, out of which only 50,000 are commercial vehicles. How much will they add to pollution?” he said.
He, however, said in a meeting with Bhure Lal from the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, and Sunita Narain from Centre for Science and Environment, the taxi drivers’ concerns were discussed.
Delhi traffic police chief, Sandeep Goel, said identifying and prosecuting such cabs would be a challenge for the department. He said officials would challan and impound AITP cabs from Sunday.
Transport experts agreed that implementing the rule would be a tricky affair. “Since there is no electronic billing mechanism in most AITP cabs, there is no way to tell their pickup and drop points. This is a grey area and it will be misused,” said Manjeet Singh, researcher at Central Road Research Institute.