Cab drivers and travel firms in the national capital region (NCR) are planning to sell their diesel cars and buy CNG ones after the Supreme Court on Wednesday banned all diesel-run taxis in the area to clean up the Capital’s toxic air.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur ordered a slew of measures, including the instruction that all taxis in NCR must convert to CNG by March 31, a move cheered by environmental activists but sparking worries among the automobile and travel industries.
“We chose this profession as we are not literate enough to do anything else. We have our commercial licenses which are the lifeline for our family,” said Parminder Singh, a cab service owner in Noida. “Currently, I have three diesel-run and two CNG taxis. If I can’t run the diesel cabs, I will have to look for other options. I may sell the diesel cabs to interior areas of UP where they are not banned and buy new CNG-fitted cabs to sustain in the business.”
Drivers who have come to the national capital region from other states in search of business with ride-hailing services like Ola and Uber are worried as many of them have procured loans to buy diesel cabs.
Lalit Kumar, a 30-year-old driver, recently shifted to Gurgaon from Punjab in search of a better future. The sole bread earner of a family of six, Kumar bought a new diesel-run Toyota Etios and hooked up with a taxi aggregator in the city. Like several other owners of diesel-run cabs, Kumar is also worried following the Supreme Court’s order.
“I took a loan of around Rs 6 lakh from my relatives to buy a car. I am a well-trained driver and had heard a lot about cab services like Ola and Uber, which offer good money. The price of diesel is fairly low compared to petrol and so I bought a diesel-run car. But after the decision by the Supreme Court, I am worried,” said Kumar.
Many drivers in the twin cities of Noida and Greater Noida, who were earning handsome money through taxi aggregators as the public transport system is very poor, are now apprehensive and planning to move out.
“The process of changing a diesel engine to CNG is very costly. It will be better for us to shift our base to our home towns or sell the diesel cars,” said Naseem Khan, who drives a taxi for Ola and hails from Allahabad.
“Nobody is ready to hear our plea. The government has charged a hefty tax on diesel vehicles from us. They should find a way out.”