Official cars of as many as 29 Union ministers were without the mandatory pollution under control (PUC) certificate, it was learnt a day before the odd-even road rationing rule kicks in to clean up the Capital’s foul air.
These vehicles allotted to ministers in months after the NDA rode to power in 2014 were flouting a strict anti-pollution rule at a time the city was gasping under a thick sheet of toxic air, with car exhaust fumes being one of the main culprits behind the choking condition.
Worse, some ministries were unaware that the rule applies to everybody. In response to a series of RTIs filed between August and November by activist JS Walia, several ministries said the pollution certificate “wasn’t applicable to them”.
The RTI replies revealed that vehicles of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and environment minister Prakash Javadekar had up-to-date PUCs but their counterparts — such as the ministers for petroleum and road transport — didn’t have one.
“We have ordered officials in the ministry to look into the issue and instructed that all cars in the ministry acquire necessary permissions, including the PUC, as soon as possible,” junior petroleum minister with independent charge Dharmendra Pradhan told Hindustan Times.
Javadekar’s office declined comment when a response was sought about his colleagues contributing, even if inadvertently, to Delhi’s air pollution. The environment minister had earlier advised people to properly maintain their cars, go for regular emission checks and thereby renew the pollution certificate.
The Delhi government’s 15-day trial run — starting Friday — of a traffic management system designed on odd-even licence plates is an attempt to reduce vehicular pollution.
Walia said he had filed RTI applications for information on 50 Union ministries and central government departments. In some cases, ministries scrambled for the PUC after the RTI was filed.
“It’s shocking that those who are expected to make laws were themselves breaking rules. There is no check by the government on such vehicles.
The Delhi transport department, which has asked the national green tribunal to increase fines for vehicles not having a valid PUC, has not taken any action either,” he alleged.
“The transport department said they had written to respective ministries, asking them to maintain their cars. But the department uses a different tone for the common man. Are VIPs above the law?” Walia asked.
A senior official tried to shield the ministers, saying their official cars were maintained by the general administration department of each ministry and it is their responsibility to keep the necessary certificates in order.
A vehicle without a PUC is liable for a fine of Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for a subsequent lapse under the motor vehicles act. But ministers’ cars are seldom pulled over and checked for such violations.
“There is an immediate need for those in power to step up and comply. Rules should be followed by all without any discrepancy and authorities must make sure that environmental laws are adhered to,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).