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State lobbies Centre on phasing out vehicles

Calcutta, Oct. 21: The state government has begun lobbying the Centre to amend the Central Motor Vehicles Act to enable it to phase out 30-year-old commercial vehicles from city roads.

The government's move follows a Calcutta High Court ruling striking down a ban on commercial vehicles.

In June, the transport department had issued a notification imposing a ban on all commercial vehicles registered before 1975. The transport lobby challenged the notification in the high court as nearly 15,000 vehicles ' mainly taxis, minibuses, buses and trucks ' would be forced to go off the roads.

The court last week set aside the transport department's notification as ultra vires and observed that it does not match the central act, which allows all vehicles ' irrespective of age ' to ply as long as they adhere to emission standards fixed by the Centre.

On October 1, a new emission standard for all vehicles ' fixed by the Union ministry of transport and highways ' came into effect.

State transport department officials have now decided to approach the Centre to modify the act so that old vehicles can be phased out.

'Our move to phase out 30-year-old commercial vehicles is aimed at curbing auto emission. But, as the court has set aside the government's notification, we cannot do much except convince the Centre of the necessity of phasing out old vehicles,' transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said today. The minister is likely to take up the matter with the Union transport ministry after the Puja holidays.

'I know that thousands of vehicle owners and operators will be affected, but they have to bear it for the sake of the environment. Bus operators will have to replace old vehicles with new ones,' he said.

Three days ago, transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury met officials of the Union transport ministry in Delhi.

'We have initiated a dialogue with the Centre to explore measures on how to phase out old vehicles from city roads. We cannot allow our city to be polluted for years,' the secretary said today on his return from the capital. 'If necessary, we shall also talk to some other states to work out plans on how to phase out old vehicles,' he said.

Officials at Writers' Buildings said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself wants to get rid of old and polluting vehicles from the city and other urban areas.

Transport operators said they would resist any attempt to phase out old vehicles.

'The state government cannot issue orders to phase out old vehicles if they conform to emission standards,' said the president of Bengal Bus Syndicate, Swarnakamal Saha. 'If the Centre makes any move in this regard, we will resist it,' said Saha.

Old vehicles 'do not mean polluting vehicles', said Bimal Guha, the Bengal Taxi Association's working president.

'There are many vehicles that are 30 years old but maintain emission standards. There are also many new vehicles that have failed emission tests. We want the government to take steps against the polluting vehicles but not against those conforming to emission norms,' he said.

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