Impose severe cost on nation

NGT, RBI Decisions

By Shivaji Sarkar

The regulators are failing the people. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Reserve Bank (RBI) in their wisdom are unable to protect them.
The NGT has passed an order of removing 10-year-old green diesel vehicles, leading to over a lakh people in the national capital region to be forced to scrap their operational and virtually no-pollution creating cars. Shortly, 15-year-old petrol vehicles too would meet same fate. The RBI has been raising interest rates to counter inflation, but it has not been able to force the banks to pass on the benefits to the depositors.
In both the cases the common man is the worst sufferer. Nowhere in the world quixotic order such as the NGT has passed is imposed on the people. The regulator may not be promoter for car manufacturers but in default ignoring the hardships of car owners has actually become so.
The banks are adding to their profits by not passing on the higher repo rate benefits to depositors. An obvious that is being seen is in the falling rate of deposits during the past many years. The RBI has done little to save the interest of depositors. It has not been able to stop the banks from hiking fees and rates and deducting amounts from their accounts for services that are not availed.
A vehicle in a country with rickety and expensive public conveyance is a necessity. It is needed for the sustenance of individuals and their families and growth of the country. Most vehicles are purchased with bank loans and in many cases the repayment period exceeds the stipulated ten-year-period.
The NGT decision is to impoverish the people, benefit the car industry and ruin the economy of the country. It needs to learn from the UK, where 40-year-old cars are not only allowed to remain operational but as an incentive for good maintenance the annual licence fee is waived off.
Is the UK less conscious about pollution? No, the British are aware, having gone through severe toils through many wars and economic hardships that depriving people of their wealth on silly pretexts helps none. They also know that fuel of any kind, including CNG and battery — an essential component of solar power, is a pollutant. But they do not pass orders that are anti-people.
India also needs to be careful. The petroleum lobby has been targeting diesel as a pollutant fuel because poor countries like ours uses it the most to reduce crude import and save precious foreign exchange.
The NGT has failed to clean the Ganga and ensure clean air for many cities suffering heavy air and water pollution. It has made a soft target of the vehicles, which as per many records and studies contribute not more than 2 (two) per cent of the total air pollution. But it has been harping on it repeatedly because it gives them good and easy publicity. It also apparently has not taken into account the losses that would accrue to the nation in scrapping these cars, a process itself which adds to effluent, metallic and plastic pollution.
The manufacturing of new cars also goes through a pollutant industrial process. Of course, it rakes up phenomenal profits for the industry at the cost of pollution and public health. The society pays for such unnecessary manufacture causing a severe loss. It also calls for a probe if such profits are being shared or not.
This apart, it even has an unnecessary law and order as well as policing cost. A country that finds appointing policemen not an easy task for its high cost would be forced to do an unnecessary job of removing the condemned vehicles. Further, it would increase rent seeking. A country of 130 crore people have 191 million vehicles. How many of these can really be removed? The NGT has not taken these basics into account.
The nation is passing through crises — it is economic, poverty and even political unrest. More the people are forced into this kind of misery supposedly “legal”, the more would be the unrest and again a cost on policing.
It is also a mistaken belief that this would earn the nation carbon points. It would lose more because of adding carbon emission in scrapping and manufacturing of vehicles that would not be needed if the old well-maintained vehicles are operational. Another cost of dumping the old vehicles has not been taken into account. Where these would be dumped — at new dumping grounds or river beds?
Instead of a draconian destructive decision, the NGT should emphasise on having “swachha” vehicles and reduce pollution all around. It must allow vehicles to run their life and may be an extended one too. Clearly, it is a myth that old vehicles add to pollution and new ones don’t. In reality, a new vehicle during its first six months of run causes more pollution and also emits fine metallic particles in the air. Importantly, the scrapping order must be reversed to save the country from additional pollution, policing cost and rent seeking.
The banking system is also getting convoluted. It shows that the regulator, whether in the areas of pollution or any other, is unable to protect the interest of the consumers. The banks also delve into another malpractice. While these do not mind reducing interest rates automatically, when it comes to take the benefit of rate raise, a rare phenomenon now, they blame it on the customers — that they have not made a “request”. This is sheer malpractice.
Note that in Australia, ANZ customers resorted to taking class action against the bank to get rid of excessive and illegal charges. Consumers in India need to learn. But why cannot RBI take suo moto action? The depositors are the unhappiest lot. There is no succour for them.
Also in the US the fees have only gotten pricier. Overdraft charges, ATM fees and other fares are big business there. It earned them an illegal $42.3 billion in 2015. This is happening in India too. Where is the remedy?
The failure of regulators such as the RBI and NGT are severe burden on the society. It costs billions of rupees to the poor Indians. They must have not only rational approach but also have to act in the interest of the people and not their perpetrators whether it is the industry or the banks.
The regulators do not take into account the political costs. Their inappropriate actions lead to unrest and for that political masters have to pay a price. The RBI and NGT have to act to prevent such unnecessary harmful costs.—INFA