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Wheels unfit & illegal rule streets

- Transport report makes official the failure to slam brakes on old vehicles

The state transport department on Thursday put an official stamp on what Calcuttans struggling to breathe on the fume-filled streets have long suspected — most of the buses, minibuses and taxis plying in the city belong in the junkyard.

According to a report filed by transport secretary B.P. Gopalika in the high court — a copy of which is with Metro — only 95 of the 858 buses, 52 of the 110 minibuses and 2,813 of the 4,652 taxis registered between January 1, 1993, and August 31, 1997, have valid certificate of fitness from PVD Beltala.

With all these vehicles being 15 years or older, they are not supposed to be plying at all — fitness certificate or no fitness certificate — as per the high court order passed on July 18, 2008, banning old vehicles from the city streets.

So, the transport department’s position that they have not been able to crack down on older vehicles merely because they have not turned up for the annual renewal of their fitness certificate is nothing but a smokescreen — and also an open admission of the lawlessness on the city streets.

“If hardly 10 per cent of the 15-year-old buses have been certified fit, as claimed in the report, how are all the others still plying? Why is the transport department and police not taking action against them?” environment activist Subhas Datta, the petitioner, later told Metro.

“And in all the statistics provided to the court, the transport secretary has conveniently chosen not to mention how many of the 5,620 buses, minibuses and taxis have been replaced for crossing the 15-year age limit since the 2008 court order,” he added.

The division bench of Justice K.J. Sengupta and Justice Ashim Kumar Mondal had asked transport secretary Gopalika last month to file a report stating how many old vehicles had been replaced.

The bus associations dismissed the report as a pack of lies. “All buses, barring a precious few, ply with valid certificate of fitness,” claimed Rabi Saha of the Bengal Bus Syndicate, adding that the government was using the fitness figures to deflect attention from its failure to phase out old vehicles. “It is impossible that 50 per cent of minibuses are plying without valid certificates,” added Abasesh Daw of the Minibus Owners’ Association.

The bench will discuss the report on September 10.

GOVT CLAIMS: Only 95 of the 858 buses, 52 of the 110 minibuses and 2,813 of the 4,652 taxis registered between January 1, 1993 and August 31, 1997 have valid certificate of fitness from PVD Beltala.

THAT MEANS: Many buses, minibuses and taxis plying in the city do not have a fitness certificate

THAT ALSO MEANS: There are 5,620 buses, minbuses and taxis over 15 years old plying in the city, violating a 2008 court order