A file picture of a school bus undergoing an emission test at Morabadi in Ranchi
The next time you seek emission clearance for your car, make sure it is present on all four wheels at a testing centre.
The state transport department has made photographing of vehicles mandatory to curb the popular practice of bending rules to bag pollution certificates.
The directive, issued by the office of the joint transport commissioner in Ranchi in Saturday, comes close on the heels of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) placing toxic air in the category of carcinogens like tobacco for the first time.
In Jharkhand, air pollution is quite menacing because all its major cities perpetually mock the permissible RSPM (respirable suspended particulate matter) limits of 100µg/m3 (general areas) and 300µg/m3 (mining belt) imposed by the Union ministry of environment and forests.
Reasons for this congenitally toxic atmosphere range from no harness on smoke-belching vehicles and poor roads to lack of monitoring against industrial pollution.
Joint transport commissioner Ram Kumar Ram — who is also the licensing authority for pollution test centres — said he hoped that the new directive would go a long way to increase accountability of such kiosks and as a consequence curb emission levels.
“I can’t completely deny that pollution certificates are sometimes issued even without checking vehicles. This is why we are concentrating on a computerised process. Some emission test centres have adopted it, but so far there wasn’t any provision of photographing vehicles. To make the computer-generated document foolproof, we have deployed the camera cop. Under the new system, both the centre and the certificate issued will have a photograph of the vehicle. We believe this will help arrest the certificate racket to a good extent,” Ram added.
Though the joint transport commissioner exuded confidence, it remains to be seen how far the camera rule actually helps in lowering toxicity of our ambient air.
For, in a state with 29 lakh registered vehicles (according to government records till August 2012), there are barely two dozen pollution testing centres. All these 21-22 kiosks are outsourced. While the vehicle load may have increased by a minimum of 10 per cent in a year, the government has shown little urgency in increasing the number of authentic emission checkpoints.
Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad together contribute a traffic volume of over 17 lakh (2012 figure), but barely have a dozen test centres. In fact, the steel city has none. If sources are to be believed, many of them do not function properly or are beyond regular government monitoring.
Again, some districts such as Gumla, Chatra and Latehar do not have a single kiosk to curb emission levels. The three districts collectively had over 50,000 vehicles till last year.
Joint transport commissioner Ram conceded that there were “problems”, but blamed manpower crunch in the department and “lack of seriousness on the part of enforcement agencies” behind the chaotic situation.
“Last year, we had issued nine new licences for emission checkpoints. In most cases, no party came forward to take up the job. I am planning to float tenders soon,” he said, leaving lack of vision and dearth of a viable roadmap to curb air pollution in plain sight.