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Six excuses for foul fumes

Saviour Six or Sabotage Six' What the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is touting as “an alternative proposal” to check auto emission without having to implement the Calcutta High Court order on introducing Bharat Stage-II (BS-II) norms by next April, can be viewed through the smokescreen as a charter to slow down the clean-air drive.

Officials said on Thursday the government reckoned the alternative proposal, if approved by the court, would enable it to bypass the Bharat Stage-II diktat, which requires large-scale replacement of engines of old cars. The six-point proposal involves:

§Adoption of a staggered engine replacement programme

§Large-scale introduction of compressed natural gas (CNG)

§Exploring the possibility of using bio-gas

§Exploring the possibility of using coal-based methane gas

§Deferment of the April 2004 deadline

§Introduction of battery-driven and solar-powered vehicles.

As reported on Wednesday, the government is poised to put forth the alternative proposal, arguing that the transport system in the city and elsewhere in Bengal would “collapse” if forced to implement the BS-II norms because the engine replacement programme involved “huge costs” and required “more time”.

The transport lobbies’ resistance to the BS-II initiative on “economic grounds” is also expected to find mention in the government’s submission to court, officials indicated.

To make the alternative proposal stick, the government is, apparently, planning action at other levels too. For example, chief minister Bhattacharjee is expected to take a proposal to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani for import of CNG from neighbouring Bangladesh through a pipeline for distribution in Bengal.

In its submission to the court, to be bolstered by similar petitions filed by the transport lobbies, the government is expected to argue for permission to introduce a staggered engine conversion programme. “We cannot evade responsibility if the transport system breaks down,” observed a senior official on Thursday.

“It will be easier to push for conversion of engines if it is allowed in a phased manner. For example, a 15-year-old vehicle may be allowed just a year for engine conversion. Similarly, a 10-year-old vehicle can be given two years,” said a senior transport official.

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