Two-stroke auto rickshaws are likely to continue to ply in the city even as efforts to phase them out fail with drivers contesting their ‘polluter’ tag. These vehicles are considered to be 10 times more hazardous to the environment than four-stroke engines.
The government recently cleared a proposal to renew the fitness certificates of all the two-stroke auto rickshaws, relaxing a stricture that attempted to ban them within the city limits. For the last two years, the government has been providing a subsidy of Rs 30,000 for scrapping them.
While 999 beneficiaries scrapped their auto rickshaws by availing the subsidy in 2016-17, none took it up in the last financial year. “There are 26,954 such rickshaws. Nobody came forward to avail the subsidy in 2017-18, stating that they can’t afford to scrap auto rickshaws. The scheme itself ended in April,” Joint Commissioner for Transport (Environment and E-governance) M P Omkareshwari said.
Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union general secretary Rudramurthy attributed this to the paltry subsidy. “Some of the drivers who gave up their two-stroke auto rickshaws this year have not even received that. How will they earn their livelihood without the vehicle,” he asked.
Studies have claimed that the two-stroke engines consume more fuel and emit six to 10 times more amount of hydrocarbons compared to their four-stroke counterparts.
However, L Jayaram, a member of the core committee set up to review the ban and also a rickshaw driver, said the summary ban on the two-stroke rickshaws was a huge mistake. “Contrary to government data, there are about 32,000 rickshaws with two-stroke engines. But most of them are now running on LPG kits, which has put an end to such emissions. The high amount of smoke is the result of the use of substandard lubricant oil,” he said.
He said a subsidy of Rs 30,000 for a vehicle that costs more than Rs 2.30 lakh would be of little help to the drivers. “I am 62-year-old now. Should I be repaying a loan for an auto rickshaw or save money for my daughter’s marriage,” he asked.
Officials said two-stroke engines have to go. “The rising pollution levels require efforts from all corners. However, a decision on this has to be taken by the government,” they said.