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India needs 99th amendment of Constitution to devise another provision of emergency
Biswendu Bhattacharjee
India needs 99th amendment of Constitution to devise another provision of emergency
PHOTO : Diesel pollution in Delhi.

India has experienced as many as 98 amendment of it’s Constitution till 65th year of its enactment. Being a citizen of India, can I suggest 99th amendment of the Constitution in any of the Provisions between Article 352 and 360, which deals all about emergency? After the Provisions of internal emergency, emergency for external aggression and financial emergency – at the end of 2014, Indians feel to have one more Provision “Green emergency or Environmental emergency”. Leaving aside all other environmental concerns, now India is desperately in need of massive reform in transport sector.

Massive dieselisation of vehicle mostly in North-eastern states and West Bengal in the name of survival support to transport industry has already taken it’s toll. COemission from both petrol and diesel was made responsible for global warming and climate change till Durban summit but now emission of Black carbon, NOand PM have identified as main trouble maker. Obviously, question comes who is responsible for these petrol or diesel? Answer is simple diesel and diesel only. Diesel driven vehicles are giving more mileage in fleet than petrol vehicle and also diesel is cheaper because of high subsidy. Diesel vehicles are bigger in size than petrol driven car, so it can carry more passengers and of course at lesser cost.

However, diesel is deregulated in October this year and now diesel price will be fixed based on market force. In Marxist argument, deregulation of diesel is another anti-poor step of the government because diesel is not only used in vehicle fleet also largely used by farmers for running irrigation pump sets and tractors. According to me, it is not only a bad or valueless argument also such argument is dangerous for development. Unless India ensures sulphur free clean diesel as well as improve vehicle technology at par with Euro – V & VI by 2020, India will face a massive environmental disaster in next decade.

We must remember, diesel emission is exactly like smoke emit from tobacco products and PM emission is 300 times more though emit less COand of course fuel efficient. Interestingly, we are hating tobacco smokers and welcoming diesel users’ rather incentivising dieselisation to ruin the younger generation. Besides, emission of dangerous pollutants in the atmosphere diesel releases serious carcinogenic particulate in the air. In hailing pollutants risk of cancer become double and lung becomes mal functioned. The latest study shows, every third children in Delhi and Kolkata is losing lung function rapidly and diesel emission is held responsible for it.

Yes, diesel users are poorer section of our society like farmers. To reduce the consumption of diesel in non-transport sector, if every state government increase the minimum support price for agricultural produces covering the cost of better and clean fuel, the argument can’t stand. Instead of encouraging diesel operated pumps and generators, the government should expand power supply to the villages. Statistics says, during economic recession, only diesel driven cars have shown about 43% growth in India and now almost 75% of the vehicles are diesel driven, which was only 4% in 2000 and 49% in 2011. If we look at India’s fuel demand, it shows 80% of crude oil is imported. And diesel demand of India is now 70 million ton and petrol demand is 50 million ton. While diesel users are trucks, buses and cars largely, 80% users of petrol are two-wheelers in India.

Immediately, India needs equalising the price of diesel and petrol to reduce the use of unclean diesel. United Kingdom is the biggest user of diesel but it is clean and moreover, emission tax and pollution tracking mechanism are stronger than US. But in case of India, we don’t have even any regulation. Thanks to Narendra Modi, for the first time, India set out Air Quality Index for the country. Again question comes, where is the infrastructure and teeth of regulation? What will be the punishment and taxation for high emitters – still these questions are unresolved.

The air quality data available from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows diesel emissions related pollutants – particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are a serious concern in Indian cities. While in 2009 about 102 cities monitored exceeded the standard for PM10, in 2012 this has increased to 137. In 2009 about 58 cities were classified as critically polluted for PM10 level, but in 2012 this has increased to 92. Similarly, in 2009 about 10 cities exceeded the standards for nitrogen dioxide. This increased to 13 cities in 2012 and more have come into the bracket of high pollution.

India cannot afford to dieselise at the current level of fuel and technologies. Cheap diesel creates incentive for more driving and for bigger cars. This results in more fuel use; more toxic pollution per km; more warming per litre of carbon rich diesel burnt; and, more warming due to its heat absorbing black carbon emissions. The WHO has branded diesel particulates as class I carcinogen for its strong link with lung cancer. Diesel related pollution - tiny and toxic particles and nitrogen oxides - are increasing in Indian cities.

[Mr Biswendu Bhattacharjee is a Journalist and an environment activist based in Tripura, advocates for reforms]

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