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Different fuel, same complaint: Taxis struggle with cost of conversion, face problems both before and after

The taxi owners who have got their vehicles converted to CNG-fitted cabs, and the thousands of others who are yet to do so, have one thing in common.

Written by Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi | Updated: May 1, 2016 4:56:10 am
Supreme Court, diesel-run taxis, NCR, taxi drivers, NCR taxi, CNG-fitted cabs, odd even scheme, delhi news, india news Thousands of diesel-run cabs on Delhi roads will be affected by the Supreme Court’s order. Tashi Tobgyal

The Supreme Court’s order banning all diesel-run taxis in the National Capital Region from Sunday is likely to hit both taxi drivers and cab owners hard, with many of them trying to put together the money required to convert their vehicles to CNG.

The taxi owners who have got their vehicles converted to CNG-fitted cabs, and the thousands of others who are yet to do so, have one thing in common. Both groups say they are struggling with the financial fallout of the Supreme Court’s order, as the process of converting diesel vehicles to CNG is expensive.

Asif Khan, who owns a fleet of 10 cabs which are hired by private companies, says the total cost of converting all his cars to CNG is going to be Rs 13 lakh. “I am already paying Rs 12,000 in monthly installments on each vehicle, that is Rs 1.20 lakh each month. I have to pay these installments for another three years before I clear my loans. Now, I will have to take another loan to convert all my cabs to CNG,” he said.

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On the Supreme Court’s order, Khan said his cars would stay off the roads from Monday, until he figured out his next course of action. The 10 drivers employed by him, meanwhile, are worried about their livelihood.

“I earn Rs 13,000 every month. But now I will not be given any duty. How is any of this my fault,” asked one of his employees.

But drivers who did get CNG kits fitted to their vehicles are also worried about the costs involved. “I had to pay over Rs 2 lakh to get my Innova car converted to CNG. I am still repaying the loan on my vehicle. This cab has turned out to cost me much more than I expected,” said Gaurav Kumar, a driver with an app-based cab aggregator.

Unable to afford the cost of converting their cabs to CNG, some drivers have been forced to sell them in neighbouring states, as no one is willing to buy diesel cars in Delhi.

“I had bought a Swift Dzire for a little over Rs 5 lakh. I can’t sell it to anyone in Delhi because diesel cabs are banned here. I sold it at less than half the price in Rajasthan, where I have a few relatives… I have lost so much because of this CNG order,” said Vinod Singh, another cab driver.

The crackdown on diesel and petrol vehicles has also affected drivers with all India tourist permits. One of them, Sandeep Kumar, explains the peculiar situation he finds himself in. “If I convert my cab to CNG, I will not be able to drive long distances. Places like Manali and others, which most tourists visit, do not have CNG fuel stations. How will we refuel our cars for the return journey?” He also blamed the Delhi government for issuing him a renewal certificate four days ago “when they knew that the order was pending in SC”.

Rajinder Soni, general secretary of the Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, alleged that the Delhi government had made taxi drivers register their diesel vehicles despite being aware of the Supreme Court’s order.

“The order is not new. It is a reiteration of older orders. Yet, the Delhi government continued registering commercial diesel vehicles. And companies like Ola and Uber came into the market with promises of including poor drivers and ensuring that they could ply on Delhi roads. That is how more and more people bought diesel cars on loans… and now they have nowhere to go,” said Soni.

Saravjeet Singh, who works for a cab service in NCR and drives a diesel vehicle, said that Rs 4.5 lakh he spent on the car has “gone to waste”. If the SC order remains in force, Singh said he would have to move to Jaipur where “there isn’t as much business but at least this diesel rule won’t apply, so there is some chance of earning a decent living.”

(With inputs from Sakshi Dayal)

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