The Supreme Court has done well to ban the sale of all vehicles not compliant with BS–IV emission norms from April 1, 2017, brushing aside the automobile industry’s plea for another year to dispose of the unsold stock of 8.24 lakh BS–III vehicles. According to the apex court, the “health” of people is “far more important than the commercial interest of automobile manufacturers”. The Supreme Court order—which covers all commercial and non–commercial vehicles, including two–wheelers—implies that the unsold BS–III vehicles have to be disposed of by March 31, provided there are buyers. According to CARE Research, a market alysis agency, the value of the total number of vehicles (8.24 lakh) affected by the order would be around Rs 14,000 crore.
These days, going by the amounts of public money spent by ministers and bureaucrats even on comparatively less important matters, Rs 14,000 crore may not be regarded as a very substantial sum of money that our manufacturers are being expected to waste, and considering what vehicles that cause greater pollution can do to the health of millions in our country, there can be no reasons to find fault with the Supreme Court’s order banning the use of vehicles that cause even a little more pollution than those permitted to run under a stricter pollution control regime. For our readers not very familiar with acronyms like BS–III and BS–IV, the letters BS stand for ‘Bharat Stage’ in referring to emission standards instituted by the Centre. These words set the limits on the amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that vehicles can emit. BS–III standards were first introduced in April 2005 in the tiol Capital Region (NCR) and 13 other cities. These standards were later extended to the entire country in April 2010. In April 2016, the NCR and the 13 cities upgraded their permissible emission limits to BS–IV standards that are somewhat more rigid than the BS–III standards and these will now be enforced all over the country from today.
The trouble arises from the fact that industrialists and manufacturers in India are not as concerned about what matters for the health of the people when safety norms imposed by the government threaten to hike costs of production. And given the very rapid increase in the number of vehicles in our urban areas, an even more stringent emission standard was perhaps called for than what BS–IV stipulates. In most civilized countries, people would have expected automobile manufacturers to follow even stricter emission norms on their own than what the government might have stipulated. This is because they are expected to be even more concerned about public health than the government. In India, it is always a matter of how much manufacturers can get away with without being imprisoned. One aspect of the emission regulations that no one seems to be bothered about is that a fil date had been set for the sale of the BS–III vehicles which was 31 March 2017. This means that manufacturers who had huge stocks of BS–III vehicles could have legally sold them up to 31 March 2017. Obviously, what was sold on 31 March 2017 or a few days earlier, is going to be used for several years. So the law obliquely permits the manufacturer who sold BS–III vehicles till 31March 2017, to go on creating ucceptable levels of pollution for many more years during which his BS–III vehicles can no longer be sold! How is this kind of a law going to do anything at all about controlling pollution arising from vehicular emission?