NEW DELHI: Vinod Gupta, 65, is a retired bank employee living in Paschim Vihar. Owner of a 1999 Zen car, he's a worried man. "I am retired and used to driving this car. It runs perfectly and gives me a mileage of 16km per litre. Why does the government expect me to shell out money on a new vehicle at a time when I am living on my savings?"
In neighbouring Rajouri Garden, Sunil Sharma is equally upset with the government's decision to ban vehicles older than 15 years. His 1985 Fiat, Sharma says, is his connect to childhood. "I spent my young years driving it in Delhi when even the names of the streets were different. It's like asking me to throw away my legacy," said Sharma, who teaches in a government school. "Why not stop people from buying multiple cars instead?"
National Green Tribunal's (NGT) order to take all vehicles older than 15 years off the road in Delhi has left owners distraught. Some are attached to their vehicles because of long association while for others it's a question of affordability. Many say they recently got their vehicles tested for re-registration while others claim to have spent thousands on overhauling. Some rue buying an old vehicle cheap because it has now become a liability.
R K Singh, a retired cop, wants to give his 16-year-old Maruti 800 to a nephew in Meerut. He hasn't got a no-objection certificate to send it off, nor can he run it in Delhi because of the NGT order. "They should at least allow me to gift the car to my nephew. It is very well maintained and was recently re-registered," he said.
Ajay Kumar, a shopkeeper in Khirki Village, doesn't want to part with his 15-year-old Maruti 800. "How can you expect poor or middle class people to buy new cars? Will they compensate me with a new car? Can they also clarify what we should do with our cars? My car is in very good shape and has a PUC certificate," Kumar said.
Angshuman Kundu, an engineer from Jhandewalan, is not sure whether the order applies to CNG vehicles as well. "I bought a 20-year-old Maruti Zen recently and it's a trouble-free car. I also have a CNG fitness certificate. Will my car also be taken off? Can I sell it outside the state?" he asked.
R N Batra, a resident of Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi has a Maruti Omni from 1989. "The car has been our family car, but since it's a court order we don't have an option but to part with it," he said. Dr S P Singh, who works at a clinic in Vasant Kunj, said, "I bought my Maruti 800 in 1998. I drive it to my clinic every day. How do I dispose of it now?"
People in NCR are also worried. Rajendra Singh (74), who lives in Greater Noida, has a 1962 Enfield Bullet motorcycle that, he says, former Prime Minister V P Singh used to campaign in Banda for an election in 1981. Rajendra Singh, who dabbled in politics himself, said, "V P Singh became CM of UP in 1980 and he needed to win an assembly election. He came from Lucknow to Banda constituency, which was vacated by the local MLA for him. He canvassed on this bike".
"There is no question of selling this bike," said Rajendra's son Alok, who now uses the bike.
The government, however, says old vehicles are not good for the environment. Even if they are properly maintained, they cannot comply with current emission norms. A research paper published in Energy Policy journal by air pollution and transport experts Sarath Guttikunda and Dinesh Mohan states, "The share of emissions from older vehicles, especially among light and heavy duty vehicles, is significant. ... We estimate that at least 30% to 50% of the total road emissions originate from vehicles older than 10 years".