Calcutta High Court bans conversion of 2-stroke auto-rickshaws to 4-stroke
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court has ordered that only four-stroke auto-rickshaws running on liquid petroleum gas (LPG) will be allowed to ply on Kolkata’s roads.
It also observed that the West Bengal Government’s notice permitting two-stroke auto-rickshaws that have been running since August 1, 2000, to be retrofitted with LPG kits and run on the city roads as “contrary to an earlier High Court ruling” and ordered its discontinuance.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice S. S. Nijjar and Justice P. C. Ghosh observed that there would be no conversion of two-stroke auto-rickshaws. They will have to be replaced by new four-stroke autos with LPG engines.
With 70,000-odd two-stroke auto-rickshaws facing the threat of getting scrapped, daily commuters are confronted with the uneasy prospect of having to resort to other modes of travel. In the absence of almost half the 9,000-strong-fleet of buses and mini-buses from the city roads following the High Court’s recent order banning all commercial vehicles older than 15 years, auto-rickshaws have been a popular mode of transport for commuters.
Even the number of auto-rickshaws has dwindled to a large extent as many owners have decided to stay off the roads to avoid being caught by the police.
Trinamool Congress-backed Auto Bachao Committee (Save Auto Committee) president Sovandeb Chattopadhyay told The Hindu that out of the 40,000 autos under their union, only 2,500 are running since August 1.
Though a High Court order to a similar effect was passed on July 18, 2008, asking all two-stroke auto-rickshaws in the Kolkata metropolitan area to be replaced by four-stroke ones, a majority of them failed to abide by it.
The steep price of a new four-stroke auto-rickshaw, which is around Rs. 1.25 lakh, and difficulty in availing of bank loan, has also deterred many from replacing their old vehicles.
The Division Bench also directed the authorities of all nationalised banks to sanction the loan applications of all auto-rickshaw purchasers within ten days of the date of receipt of such application.
Besides, it directed the oil companies to set up new LPG stations within 15 days for easy refuelling for the four-stroke autos.