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Since 1st March, 1999
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Fume check date falls flat
- State ignores tailpipe emission norms deadline

Today, in case you missed it, is October 1. The reason we raise it is that the government certainly has.

Yet another pollution deadline has come and gone, with the state government not even coming close to meeting it. This time, it was matching the new, more stringent tailpipe emission standards coming into effect throughout India from Friday.

The reason for missing the pollution-curb mark yet again is simple: no auto-emission centre in the state is in a position to measure the new norms.

'We have already written to the Union ministry of road transport and national highways for extension of the deadline, as the relevant notification regarding the instruments like four-gas analysers arrived late in August,' claims H. Mohan, joint secretary of transport department.

Delhi, however, appeared to be in the dark. Virendar Singh, under-secretary of the Central ministry of road transport and national highways, told Metro on Thursday afternoon: 'We are yet to receive any proposal from the West Bengal government' In fact, we have not received any such request (to extend the deadline) from any state so far. So, the new norms will come into effect throughout the country from Friday.'

When asked what steps could be taken to ensure that the Bengal government toed the anti-pollution line, Singh admitted: 'We can only formulate the policy, but the state governments have to implement it.'

The October 1 notification was issued back in February and the government of West Bengal had used this to win a six-month breather from Calcutta High Court in April.

'Don't treat the period as a holiday,' the judges had warned the transport department then, while allowing the government to escape the Bharat Stage II noose.

The transport department has done precious little since.

'Forget about implementation, the transport department is not even inclined to do anything, apart from raising a hue and cry at the last moment to create pressure and possibly win another holiday,' says environment activist Subhas Dutta.

The activist is the amicus curiae to the high court in the auto-emission case that has meandered through five years of thrust and parry:

In September 1999, S.M. Ghosh filed a writ petition in the high court for 'improving the air quality of Calcutta'

The high court constituted an expert committee, which submitted a whole lot of recommendations with its report in June 2000

The matter reached the Supreme Court in 2002. The apex court ordered that all cities having equal or more air pollution than Delhi need to submit a CNG/LPG-based action plan to the court

The Bengal government was the first to oblige with an action plan. The court ordered other states to follow the Calcutta model (and later referred the case back to the high court).

Calcutta High Court, in April 2003, ordered that all vehicles in the city must conform to Bharat II norms, within a year

In March 2004, this deadline was pushed back by the government by citing to the court the national deadline of October 1 for tailpipe emission norms.

Now, that too has passed and the air we breathe goes from foul to fatal.

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