30 July, 2021

Smoke Signals And Gastric Trouble

The Centre and state are busy passing the buck, even as the public and transporters run out of gas—and patience

Jitender Gupta
Smoke Signals And Gastric Trouble

An ambitious and sweeping attempt to make Delhi pollution-free is now turning out to be quite a nightmare. Last week's CNG crisis which paralysed public transport in the capital had all the essential ingredients—the Centre and state working at cross-purposes, red-tapism, myopic planning, favouritism, allegations of kickbacks and foreign jaunts by state ministers and officials—combining to produce something resembling the primordial soup.

Two years ago, in July 1998, the apex court had instructed the Delhi government that by April 1, 2001, only buses, taxis and autorickshaws running on CNG or compressed natural gas should ply on Delhi roads. But like all things else, the directive was not taken seriously enough and when the ban on non-CNG vehicles did come into force, there were only 1,000 buses on the road, only a 12th of the usual fleet size of 12,000 that services Delhi daily.

Not surprisingly, public anger and frustration spilled over onto the streets on April 2, with irate commuters setting buses on fire. Faced with a severe image...

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