Monday, 30th October 2017

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Breathe easy: Siliguri to replace auto-rickshaws with vans

The auto-rickshaws had become one of the key causes of air pollution in the city

By Our Bureau in Siliguri
  • Published 21.02.19, 2:13 AM
  • Updated 21.02.19, 4:17 AM
  • 2 mins read
One of the four-wheelers which will replace autos in Siliguri. Picture by Passang Yolmo

The Bengal government on Wednesday launched an initiative to replace smoke-emitting autos in Siliguri with four-wheelers which meet standard pollution norms and run on CNG and petro fuels.

The city autos, which were introduced in Siliguri around two decades back, are considered one of the key reasons of air pollution in the town.

“It was a longstanding demand of the residents to replace the autos which emit thick dark smoke and cause pollution. Also, many of the autos do not meet the current norms of pollution. The state government had been mulling over the issue for quite some time and finally, the process to replace the autos started,” said Krishna Chandra Pal, a member of the Regional Transport Authority of Darjeeling.

On Wednesday, 62 auto owners were handed over keys to the new four-wheelers. These are seven-seater vehicles which match the current pollution standards.

“The cost of each vehicle is Rs 4.40 lakh and the state is providing a subsidy to the extent of 30 per cent to each auto owner. The remaining money has to be arranged by the owner who can also avail himself or herself of finances . The vehicles will be provided with new permits in due course. The new vehicles will be launched in phases and gradually, all city autos will be replaced,” said a source.

Siliguri and the suburbs have 1,200-odd autos which move through different routes.

“These days, it is tough to ride a two-wheeler behind autos because of the thick and dark smoke they emit. Even while driving a four-wheeler, it is tough to keep the window glasses open,” said Pradip Dutta, a retired government employee.

Subhash Lama, a trader, hopes he can finally breathe easy. “My shop is along a road through which hundreds of autos pass every day. At times, we have to put masks or place a handkerchief on the face as smoke creates a burning sensation in the eyes and nose. It seems air pollution levels will improve once more new vehicles are introduced. It would be better if most of the auto owners choose to buy the CNG variant of the four-wheelers.”

The auto owners, too, have welcomed the move.

“We are aware of the pollution problem. But we have hundreds of drivers employed under us. Also, city autos are one of the principal modes of transport in Siliguri and we could not stop running them. We welcome the move to shift to the environment-friendly vehicles,” said Nirmal Sarkar, the secretary of the City Auto Owners’ & Drivers’ Welfare Association.