Shoot down govt plan to buy 1,000 e-buses using green cess: panel

Informs SC about govt’s abysmal record in buying buses .

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi | Published: May 18, 2018 4:26:23 am
Shoot down govt plan to buy 1,000 e-buses using green cess: panel In 2016, the government had flagged off the first electric bus on a pilot basis. Archive

The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) has recommended to the Supreme Court that the Delhi government’s proposal to use ECC (environment compensation charge) funds to buy around 1,000 e-buses be shot down.The panel, in a report to the apex court, stated that since the government’s track record in terms of induction of buses is poor, the ambitious proposal on e-buses needs more detailing. The SC had asked the EPCA to examine the proposal and submit a report.

ECC is a green tax imposed on commercial vehicles entering Delhi. As of April 12 this year, the cess collected was Rs 999.25 crore.The panel, headed by retired bureaucrat Bhure Lal, observed that EPCA is “not in a position to recommend that the Hon’ble Supreme Court should clear the proposal as given in the IA (Interim Application) of the Delhi government.”

It listed a number of reasons to back its position, including the abysmal track record of the city government in procuring buses for the DTC, and building related infrastructure. “The government of NCT Delhi has not done sufficient work to detail out the proposal for induction of 1000 e-buses and its necessary infrastructure,” the report states. The EPCA also clarified that contrary to the government’s claim, the Centre’s FAME scheme to subside e-buses would not cover the national capital. The government had initially proposed that 40 e-buses be subsidised and had later demanded that the assistance be given to all 1,000 buses.

The price of each bus ranges from Rs 75 lakh (for 9 metres with a seating capacity of 31 and battery range of 150 km) to Rs 1.75 crore (for AC low-floor of 400 mm, 12 metre with seating capacity 40 and battery range of 300 km), said the EPCA. “It is not clear why the IA filed by Delhi government says it proposes to procure the e-bus at Rs 2.5 crore,” it noted.

“It is also clear that in this case, the government of India/Delhi government will be underwriting the costs of the technology up to Rs 1 crore/bus. Therefore, public subsidy, particularly, if it involves large orders, must secure better returns,” the report added.

The number of buses plying in the city under the DTC and the cluster bus chain is around 5,800 currently. Going by conservative estimates, the city needs around 15,000 buses to cater to its rapidly growing population.
The AAP dispensation has recently initiated the process to buy 1,000 cluster buses and 1,000 DTC buses. The proposal to buy 1,000 e-buses was an additional one, which the SC is examining.

Even the proposal to buy 1,000 standard low-floor cluster buses is currently pending Cabinet approval and the government has asked the transport department to thrash out its financial aspects.

“Over the past few years, the government has not inducted significant numbers of buses. In fact, even now, there is some measure of uncertainty about the tenders for DTC bus fleet fructifying,” the report added.

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