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Siege within: Transport minister scuttles government’s ‘clean-up’ order on autos

Even as the state government is busy convincing the Calcutta High Court of its seriousness in cutting down air pollution levels in the city by converting 30,000-odd auto-rickshaws into the LPG mode...

Written by Bidyut Roy | Kolkata |
January 29, 2009 3:03:17 am

Even as the state government is busy convincing the Calcutta High Court of its seriousness in cutting down air pollution levels in the city by converting 30,000-odd auto-rickshaws into the LPG mode,it now turns out that one of its own ministers scuttled the government order that had made it mandatory for auto-wallahs to produce PUC or pollution-under-control certificate before they could buy diesel from pumps in the city.

In March 2008,the environment department took the first step against the polluting vehicles plying on Kolkata’s roads by ordering that no diesel-operated vehicle would be allowed to buy fuel without producing a valid PUC certificate each time. The order was in line with the existing rule that all motorists must carry PUC certificate.

But vehicle operators,in league with fuel station owners,roped in maverick CPI(M) leader Subhas Chakraborty,who is also the transport minister as well as leader of various transport sector trade unions,to get around the environment department’s order.

The minister is then reported to have put pressure on the environment department,headed by Sailen Sarkar,another CPM leader. Within two months,the department had cancelled its earlier notification,citing “changed circumstances”.

“In view of the changed circumstances¿no-PUC-no-fuel¿policy of the government,is presently kept in abeyance until further orders,” the environment department said in the order No S/EN/1143/202/2008. The “changed circumstances”,according to a note forwarded by Sarkar on April 28,2008,was a request from Chakraborty,asking him to keep in mind the interests of the petroleum dealers and transport operators. Incidentally,the environment department’s first notice was issued by Principal Secretary ML Meena,on March 4,2008,following a high court order of March 2004 issued expressly for the purpose. The notice canceling this was issued by a junior officer in the same department,joint secretary D K Agasty.

Meena had said: “…A large number of vehicles are operating without statutory PUC certificate.”

Canceling this notification,Agasty had noted: “As per the advice of competent authorities,operation of the order is presently kept in abeyance.”

When contacted,the transport minister admitted to having put pressure on the environment department to put its earlier order in abeyance.

“Yes. I did tell them to do so. What do they think they are doing? Do they want to stall the transportation in the city?” Chakraborty said.

Hearing deferred in HC
The case on the emission by auto-rickshaws did not come up for hearing today in the Calcutta High Court,where a division bench headed by Chief Justice S S Nijjar,which was to hear the arguments,could not sit.

Earlier,after a hearing,a division bench of Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh had asked the state government on January 9 to place the action-taken report on autos after each fortnight. The state government had prepared the report on the conversion of the two-stroke autos to four-stroke LPG mode and was to place the same today before the court. —ENS

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