The need for an efficient public transport network, especially a city bus service, has grown stronger in Gurgaon after the recent directions by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to stop registration of diesel autos in NCR.
Implementing a Supreme Court order, EPCA on Saturday directed seven districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to halt registration of autos, taxis and buses that run on diesel from Monday. But to phase out diesel autos from Gurgaon, which are one of the oldest and highly used transport modes in the city, alternative modes of public transport have to be provided to commuters.
Experts have long been pushing for a city bus service, among other sustainable modes, in Gurgaon. “A good bus service will automatically solve the auto menace in Gurgaon as they are presently filling a vacuum created by deficient public transport. If buses provide last-mile connectivity, autos will only be used as feeders to a good bus network,” said SK Lohia, former officer on special duty (urban transport) and ex-officio joint secretary of the Union ministry of urban development.
In the absence of public transport, residents and commuters in Gurgaon are dependant on autorickshaws and cabs. Since 1999, over 20,000 autorickshaw permits have been issued, while thousands of autos ply without a valid registration, officials of the road transport authority (RTA) have said.
“Autos, cabs or buses that run on diesel will not be registered in Gurgaon from Monday onwards. There are many diesel autos in Gurgaon and we cannot stop them from plying immediately. They are an important mode of transport for many in the absence of alterative public transport modes. We are working on plans to gradually replace them with more sustainable options,” Sushil Sarwan, secretary of the Gurgaon RTA, said.
Diesel autos have become an integral part of Gurgaon’s public transport system, with fares as low as Rs10. But, with no regulation, diesel auto-rickshaws or shared autos have become a transportation nightmare for commuters and the environment.
“There are many diesel autos plying in Gurgaon and they add to the pollution, emitting toxic waste and pollutants. It was decided in Saturday’s meeting that the state authorities will plan how to phase out these autos as soon as possible,” Anumita Roychowdhary from the Centre for Science and Environment and a member of EPCA, said.
EPCA’s directions are bound to increase the dependency on CNG autos, which accommodate three passengers unlike six in shared autos. CNG autos are comparatively an expensive mode of transport as they do not run on a fixed tariff. In the last two years, there have been several meetings by officials concerned to regulate these autos by introducing a tariff, installing meters and ensuring all autos are registered wit the RTA. But no concrete steps have been taken so far.
“On a regular day, at least 10-12 passengers are stuffed into a diesel auto. The drivers do not fear the law,” said Ragini Narayan, an IT executive, adding that though the quality of service is poor, commuters do not have a choice but to use them.
Polluting the environment, reckless driving, parking/ halting haphazardly to pick up and drop passengers, drivers not wearing uniforms and carrying ID cards, fleecing passengers are everyday hassles that commuters face while travelling in Gurgaon autos.