The state government’s final report concerning ways and means to tackle and tame automobile pollution, which was placed before the high court green bench on Friday, contains several features that have not been included in its earlier avatars.
Besides raising the age of cars to be phased out to 17 years from the former figure of 15, the state government plans to seek legal changes to bring in strict penal measures for violation of traffic rules. Procedures to issue driving licences will also be made more stringent.
The court said the state government could take a year, and no more, to begin implementing its intentions and all that is contained in its report.
With the court insisting that public transport vehicles and old cars switch over to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG), the green bench asked the state government to seek from the Centre a steady supply of either fuel. At present, there is only one pump where LPG is available.
The final report placed before the bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Jayanta Biswas, includes:
4Amending the state Motor Vehicles rules for setting up LPG and CNG outlets
4Creating a fund exclusively for the development of roads and a traffic signalling system
4Adherence to the present practice of registering only new vehicles that conform to Bharat Stage II emission norms
4Chalking out a concrete scheme to phase out taxis that are more than 17 years old
4Draw up strict rules on issuing driving licences
4Putting in place a system to eliminate touts at offices that issue driving licences
4State government to begin driving and road-safety awareness courses in schools for students, in Class X and above
4Pollution checks to be more thorough and complying cars to be issued green cards
4Fit cars, with sound engines as well as chasses and properly-functioning systems, to be issued an additional golden card
4Cars with both the green and golden cards will be the only ones allowed to ply on city roads
4Foreign experts to be called in to redo traffic signalling systems in the city
4Bus stops to be reduced and staggered for different routes to keep traffic flowing
4Long-distance buses to be provided terminals on the outskirts of the city
The final report mysteriously excludes any mention of the fate of auto-rickshaws, which the green bench has been particularly severe on. Three-wheelers have widely been identified as one of the ‘chief polluting agents’ on the city streets. State advocate-genaral Balai Ray has told the court that the “socio-economic aspects” of the auto-rickshaw problem is being worked out.
Subhas Dutta, an environment activist called in by the bench to assist the judges in this particular case, pointed out that no checks were carried out on a large number of trucks that entered the city at night. The judges directed the state government to ensure that checks were carried out at night to muzzle smoke-belching trucks.
Advocate-general Ray also outlined a plan to set up truck terminals outside the city to curb pollution. These will be along the lines of the Kona truck terminal, now under construction.
As far as the corpus that will be created by the state government to beef up the traffic sector, transport department sources said the money will come from a reserve created for infrastructure development, put in place some years ago to make the state more “investor-friendly”.
This fund was a government initiative following complaints by non-resident Indians, back in 2000, who made it clear that unless the roads were improved, no one would invest in the state.