Jharkhand is allergic to change, especially when it is for the better.
No wonder three years have lapsed since the state government filed an affidavit in Jharkhand High Court, promising to set up green fuel stations in Ranchi and elsewhere to purge toxic air, and yet the capital continues to breathe uneasy.
In May 2011, even before the deposition in court, then Ranchi deputy commissioner K.K. Soan had begun the groundwork for launching liquid petroleum gas stations in HEC, Doranda and Ratu areas as a part of the first phase of this clean air campaign.
Unfortunately, on today’s date, no one in the state transport department or district administration knows the exact status of the project, which like most others in Jharkhand have sunk into oblivion following land and manpower posers. Result: hundreds and thousands of smoke-belching auto-rickshaws, buses, trucks and private vehicles continue to ply across the state and its capital to mock safety standards and daily commuters are left at god’s mercy.
What is more concerning is that neither the transport bosses nor the district authorities have managed to put a leash on rogue vehicles, which ply without valid permits, by phasing them out. And age only adds the formidable toxic edge to these tin demons.
A senior transport department official, not willing to be named, said their job was restricted to issuing permits. “We check vehicle safety parameters and issue permits. In the past couple of years, we may have issued around 2,500 permits. But, roads have been burdened with vehicles double that number,” he contended.
“Poor enforcement of rules by the traffic department and district transport office is a matter of concern. But then, they have their own constraints, primarily manpower crunch,” he added.
On the missing gas stations, he agreed that had they come up, air pollution would have been much less in Ranchi. “The district administration has to look into logistics support such as land for setting up LPG refill stations,” the transport official maintained.
Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey claimed oil companies had been asked to scout for suitable acres.
“To my knowledge, the government doesn’t have its own land in the earlier proposed areas. They are under PSUs or other entities. So, we requested oil companies to look for riyati land, which can then be bought to set up gas stations. I don’t have any update yet,” he said.
Uday Kumar, chief area manager of IOCL (Jharkhand), contradicted the district’s almost unjust faith in oil firms. “In HEC area, the company isn’t willing to give us land. In Doranda, police have raised objection. Where do we go hunting for land? As far as riyati land is concerned, you don’t get them on the roadside. And a gas station is of little use if located in interior pockets,” he reasoned.
“We had also wanted to set up LPG units at existing fuel bunks to buffer costs. Floating a tender for a new gas station is both expensive and time-consuming,” he added.
While state mandarins and implementing agencies play pass the buck, the projects will rot in cold storage and Jharkhand may develop a better cough reflex!
Will LPG stations ever see the light of day in Ranchi?