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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

4 million ‘junk’ vehicles clog Delhi roads leading to congestion

Number of overage vehicles on Delhi roads mount as agencies struggle to scrap them or enforce action against their owners.

delhi Updated: Nov 15, 2019 09:17 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Abandoned cars and vehicles seen parked outside a residential area at Nizamuddin in New Delhi.
Abandoned cars and vehicles seen parked outside a residential area at Nizamuddin in New Delhi. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

There are about 4 million “overage” vehicles, both diesel and petrol, deemed deregistered but yet to be taken off the roads in the national capital, as per the Delhi government.

Last year, the state government had notified the Guidelines for Scrapping of Motor Vehicles in Delhi, 2018 for disposing these “overage” or “junk” vehicles. It considers petrol and CNG vehicles older than 15 years, all diesel vehicles older than 10 years and any vehicle rendered inoperable by accident or otherwise, as “overage”.

But the government has been able to scrap only 1,405 — 965 four-wheelers, 335 two-wheelers, 59 three-wheelers and 46 trucks and buses— of the 3,966,004 “junk” vehicles, leaving most of them to occupy precious public space and leading to traffic congestion. And every year, about 175,000 cars and 450,000 two-wheelers are added to Delhi’s roads.

The recently notified parking rules — Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Places Rules, 2019 — bans parking of junk vehicle in public spaces. It empowers the civic agencies or traffic police to impound junk vehicles parked in public space, especially 60-foot wide roads. It also empowers them to “auction” these vehicles if unclaimed by the owner within a period of 14 weeks (three months and 15 days).

However, experts say that considering the space crunch in the city and other practical reasons, scrapping is the only solution.

Very few scrappers

It was in November last year that Gagan Tyagi, a resident of Preet Vihar, had made up his mind to get his 12-year old diesel SUV scrapped. “The government, through a series of advertisements and notices, had then warned the public that old vehicles couldn’t even be left parked. I read the notice in a newspaper and decided to scrap it,” he said.

A year later, Tyagi’s SUV still remains parked outside his house, gathering dust. “I looked all over the websites of the Delhi government and its transport department, but found no list of empanelled scrap dealers. Nowhere have the agencies even mentioned any procedure,” he said.

Worried about government action, Tyagi even thought of selling his car to one of the hundreds of scrap dealers in areas such as West Delhi’s Mayapuri.

But trading these vehicles as second-hand vehicles too is banned in the national capital. At present, regional transport offices (RTOs) in Delhi are issuing No Objection Certificates (NOCs) only for diesel vehicles between 10 and 15 years old for sale outside the national Capital. The government says it is yet to get clarity from the court on whether NOCs should also be given to petrol vehicles older than 15 years

“If I am complying with the law, I do not want my vehicle to end up in the illegal market. The whole purpose will be defeated then,” he said. “But I don’t seem to have much of a choice.”

Tyagi’s worries are not unfounded.

Notifying the scrapping guidelines on August 24, 2018, the Delhi government had said the rules would reduce the demand for land to build scrapyards to accommodate junk vehicles impounded by enforcement agencies as these would be directly sent for dismantling or scrapping to authorised dealers.

But, in over a year the Delhi government has been able to empanel or authorise only one scrap dealer and issue provision certificates to three others.

Special Commissioner (transport) KK Dahiya said, “We have at least 10 dealers whose license application status is pending. This is because some vendors are taking time to set up the required infrastructure. Scrap dealers, like those in Mayapuri area, are facing problems in getting emapanelled with us also because the rule requires at least 1000 square yards of space to carry out dismantling activities apart from having good machinery. Most of the scrap dealers in Delhi don’t have that much space as the entire set up operates informally.”

Enforcement challenge: No space for junk

While the civic agencies can impound vehicles as per the new rules, they don’t have space to keep these vehicles.

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has 10 storage spaces, while the North and East corporations have 12 and four, respectively. The civic agencies say their stores or scrapyards are full and can barely accommodate any extra vehicles.

Though the policy empowers the civic agencies to “auction” impounded vehicles, a majority of these are likely to return to city streets, say civic agency officials.

In most residential neighbourhood in the city, one can find junk vehicles occupy road space. Resident says in most cases these vehicles are parked on the roads by its owners just to reserve the parking space.

“Several such vehicles are parked on footpaths encroaching pedestrian spaces. We have even had cases of fights over parking in many colonies. The civic agencies need to intensify their enforcement,” said BS Vohra, head of the east Delhi RWA joint front.

In Lajpat Nagar-III, where the SDMC is implementing the pilot project to streamline parking in residential area on court orders, the civic agency had identified “48 junk vehicles”. “The vehicles were removed by the owners after the SDMC served them 30-day notices,” Prem Shankar Jha, Deputy Commissioner and in-charge of Remunerative Projects (RP) Cell, SDMC. “The impounded vehicles are likely to return to city streets since owners, as per the Motor Vehicle Act, can get their vehicles back just after paying a fine. So, it mainly comes down to enforcement.”

The Delhi traffic police said it conducts drive against End of Life Vehicles (ELVs) “every now and then”, even as it did not provide data about the number of vehicles impounded in the last six months or one year.

“Drives are carried out every now and then. But, a lot of such cases of impounded vehicles end up in the court as most of the policies that are in place are not legally binding as such. So, the vehicle owner has an upper hand often,” said a senior traffic officer.

In February last year, the state transport department had even launched a mobile application - ‘Khatara Gaadi’ - where people could click pictures and report about any junk vehicle eating up a public parking space.

However, the government said the app has now become dormant as managing the complaints between various agencies had become “difficult”. “A time came when complaints were way more than what agencies could take action against. Then there were logistical issues too such as lack of land to keep these vehicles. So, the app was sort of put out of use,” said a transport official.

While agencies which take action against junk vehicles have constantly expressed their inability to carry out sustained drives to impound such vehicles owing to lack of space, scrap dealers say dismantling them is the way forward.

“We have all the rules in place, now what we need is a will to effectively implement these rules. The government needs to ease its rule to authorise scrap dealers, who would dismantle end of life vehicles in a systematic and eco-friendly manner. Incentives should be offered to those who voluntarily opt to dismantle their end of life vehicle,” said Ramesh Kumar Gupta, general secretary of the Mayapuri Industrial Welfare Association. Mayapuri is considered to be Delhi’s biggest vehicle scrap market.

“But, more importantly, incentives should also be offered to scrap dealers to shift to safer, less hazardous and more eco-friendly machines as they are quite expensive,” he said. Mayapuri is considered as Delhi’s biggest vehicle scrap market.