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  • Writer's pictureGurudas Nulkar

BS-III vehicle ban: The curious case of the government backing auto-makers

Sale of BS-III vehicles banned by Supreme court from 1st April 2017. Most certainly a welcome move but a pity that decisions in the interests of civil society, must be taken by the Supreme court! And the more surprising part? The Centre backed the automakers in their defence!

Although the automotive industry knew of the deadline, they ‘seem to have missed’ the point that it was a ban on sale and not just on manufacturing as they ‘thought’ it would be. The government backed this argument in the Supreme court[1].

Taking sides with the auto-makers, the Centre, argued that it agrees to the interpretation to “stop making BS-III vehicles by 1st April 2017”. But then, if this was indeed the communication, why did three giant auto-makers – Bajaj, Toyota and Bharat Benz stop making BS-III from last year? Did they get it wrong?

The BS-IV is a far tougher standard and is expected to reduce the pollution by nearly half of today’s levels[2]. In spite of this, the Centre chose to plead the case of ‘loss of business’ for the auto-makers than uphold the interests of the public that elected them! It is estimated that there are about 820,000 BS-III vehicles which are unsold, amounting to Rs. 12,000 crores. The automakers have themselves to blame for the stock. Is no one curious why the government has sympathised with them?

Why would the automakers delay taking up cleaner norms? For one, it would lead to higher prices for the BS-IV vehicles which, they fear, would shrink the market. The second reason is that the government has a history of bowing down to sectoral pressure, and this time too, the Centre obliged.

Assuming the Supreme Court maintains this ruling, there are just 4 weeks left to sell off the defunct BS-III lot. As can be expected, there would be a scamper to sell off the defunct lot and hordes of buyers to pocket the discounts. While consumers benefit in the short run, this could potentially worsen the situation for the country. But when it rains discounts, we hardly care for the long run threat.

This situation has clearly exposed the fact that industry doesn’t look beyond revenues and government beyond GDP. As citizen, we have to accept the fact that more such decisions important to the quality of our life, will be taken by the Supreme Court. And only live with the hope that one day the honourable court will direct the government to spend on public transport infrastructure, instead of wasting efforts on defending industry growth.

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