A working group of experts, set up by the Ministry for Urban development, has come out with a strong call to increase the excise duty and registration costs on diesel-powered private vehicles, ban hoardings on pedestrian walkways and cut down the taxes on buses and other public transport vehicles as part of measures to make cities and towns more socially and environmentally sustainable.
The panel, formed to work out the parameters for the urban transport segment under the recently launched National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, has argued for an increase in the excise duty at the national level and registration costs at the State and city-levels for diesel-propelled private vehicles. It contended that increased use of diesel vehicles was only adding to the burden of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, key pollutants of concerns in Indian cities, even while defeating the objective of improving the country's energy security.
Studies in Europe
“Studies in Europe show [that] even at the level of Bharat stage III and IV the cancer potency of diesel emissions remains higher than the petrol emissions''.
On ban on hoardings on pedestrian walkways, the panel pointed out that these were posing major safety hazards. The State and city governments could, instead, earn their revenues by going for advertising on public service amenities such as buses, metro trains, commercial passenger vehicles, bus shelters, metro shelters, public toilets and public garbage facilities, it said.
As regards taxes on public passenger transport vehicles, the panel rued that “the total tax burden per vehicle km is 2.6 times higher for public transport buses than cars in India.”
It suggested that the State and city governments could go in for “cascade registration tax” for owning more than one private vehicle.
Headed by Joint Secretary in the Ministry in charge of Urban Transport S.K. Lohia, the panel has also called for a re-orientation of the urban transport planning to give pedestrian traffic as much, if not more, importance than other modes of transit.
Noting that a significant number of trips were short-distance ones that are under three km, the panel said, “Good pedestrian facilities with appropriate design based on weather conditions [can] reduce dependence on motor vehicles for such short trips.”
The Ministry organised a national consultation workshop for a discussion on the report of the panel on Wednesday.
It was attended by senior officials of urban development departments of various State governments, municipal commissioners of the cities under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Mission for Urban Renewal and representatives of major real estate companies such as DLF and GMR.
Another consultation with the stakeholders would be held later before it was finalised, Ministry officials said.