The Chandigarh administration has given a free run to illegal diesel-powered three-wheelers, which were actually banned five years ago in favour of CNG- or LPG-run autos.
Officials say there are a total of 2,671 registered and around 3,000 unregistered liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-powered auto-rickshaws in the city. And while the State Transport Authority (STA) and local police act as spectators, around 10,000 diesel autos, most of these bearing registration numbers of Haryana and Punjab, enter the city daily.
It was in 2002 that the Supreme Court had issued directions for the conversion of all public vehicles, including petrol- and diesel-driven buses, taxis and three-wheelers, to those run by compressed natural gas (CNG). Later, in 2009 the apex court ordered for preparation of a scheme for compulsory switchover to CNG/LPG as automotive fuel. Subsequently, to make the city pollution-free, the Chandigarh administration issued a direction for phasing out diesel autos by August 8, 2009. It was also decided that no new permit would be granted for diesel autos. Of the diesel autos still engaged in the city, around 600 bear Chandigarh numbers but have no permit thus. Though the ban technically covers petrol autos too, there are hardly any such autos.
The STA accepted that diesel autos are running illegally, but expressed helplessness in stopping them from entering the city. STA secretary Mahavir Kaushik said, “We do not have the required manpower for putting a check on such autos. At present, the STA just has two part-time motor-vehicle inspectors at its disposal.”
He claimed that despite staff shortage, the STA regularly conducted drives and had impounded some such autos. As per official figures, the STA has impounded around 300 diesel-run autos in past five months.
The STA has also written to the UT’s transport secretary asking for direction to the police station house officers (SHOs) to deploy cops for the check.
But, the traffic police have also been at the receiving end for not doing enough to curb illegal autos. Senior superintendent of police (SSP), traffic and security, Maneesh Chaudhry said the police issue challans and impound such vehicles. However, he said, diesel auto operators try to exert pressure by staging protests.
The Tri-City Auto Rickshaw Union has been at loggerheads with the administration over its failure to comply with the ban on diesel autos. Surinder Bhardwaj, president of the Chandigarh Janata Dal-United and also chairman of the auto union, alleged that authorities were hand in glove with the “diesel auto mafia”. “There should be an inquiry to ascertain the reasons why diesel autos are running despite a ban,” he said.