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Court banks on computers to clean city air, emission centres fudge fume figures
No test for pass marks

Twenty-four hours before Calcutta High Court disposed of the auto emission case in the belief that foolproof computerised testing centres had been put into place, Metro hit the streets with a polluting, diesel-driven Tata Sumo to check how foolproof the system really was.

The conclusion: In Calcutta, you have the licence to kill (in other words, pollute beyond the permissible limit) as long as you find an authorised Pollution Under Control (PUC) centre to gift you an 'A' grade emission certificate ' government of West Bengal hologram and all ' without having to even open your bonnet or start the engine.

And as long as you know where to go, the clean chit ' auto-emission count Hartridge Smoke Unit (HSU) within 65 for diesel vehicles ' is just a few extra rupees, or a few extra kilometres, away.

Here's hitting the true-lies trail of computerised emission checks'

Pollution Pit Stop I

Thursday, 12.20 pm, Super Avenue Service Station, on Bhupen Bose Avenue.

The Sumo rolls into the pump near the Shyambazar five-point crossing for an emission check. 'It will not pass, sir,' opines the mechanic. 'That's why we have come here,' we say.

'Sure, but you will have to pay Rs 250 (instead of the card rate of Rs 100),' he retorts.

Bargaining brings it down to Rs 150. Deal struck, the mechanic gets down to business.

The oil temperature and the photograph of the number plate are fed into the 'foolproof' computer and the pre-set result ' 42 HSU (passed with Grade A) ' is produced on a certificate, WB-01-0209748.

Signed and sealed in eight minutes.

Pollution Pit Stop II

Thursday, 1.30 pm, Sen Service Station, on Salkia School Road, Howrah.

The Sumo hits the pump near Golabari police station. Taxi drivers in the area have recommended this Howrah centre for a 'hassle-free' pollution check.

Park, pay up, pass the test ' there's no time to waste, too many polluting vehicles to be pronounced roadworthy.

'You don't need to start the car. Just give us the bluebook details and the money (Rs 100) while we photograph the number plate,' says the attendant.

The vital statistics of some previous Ambassador ' now made into a template ' is used for the Sumo. So, the speedometer reading shows 65,213 km instead of the actual 4,240 km and the test time reads 8 am instead of 1.30 pm. Another Grade A (certificate number WB-01-0205475), with 42 HSU, in five minutes flat.

Pollution Pit Stop III

Thursday, 2.30 pm, Surya Filling Station, in Bagbazar.

The PUC centre is asked to carry out the emission check 'properly' ' from oil temperature to tailpipe emission.

All six emission recordings are well above the 65 HSU limit, with 67.4 being the minimum and 89.1 the maximum. The average is 79.7 HSU in the emission Test ID RAVL000178.

So, the Sumo that had passed the previous two pollution tests in the past three hours, is 'FAILED'.

Official reactions

We were under the impression that the method was foolproof

' Shyamal Sarkar, member-secretary, West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

I had no idea the computerised checking system could be manipulated

'Asim Banerjee, secretary, Auto Emission Testing Association.

If this is the case, the entire exercise becomes worthless

' A transport department official.

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