No need to buckle under car industry's pressure
By The New Indian Express | Published: 24th September 2013 07:24 AM |
An economy like India that depends greatly on oil imports has to take all steps to reduce consumption. Yet, it has been dragging its feet on setting standards for fuel efficiency in cars. After a lot of discussions, the power ministry had prepared a set of norms in 2009 to be enforced from 2015. It would have given automobile manufacturers six years to upgrade their technology to comply with the new norms. Since it entailed heavy investments, the car industry opposed the move and the government succumbed to its pressures. Finally, the Prime Minister’s Office had to intervene to postpone the enforcement date from 2015 to 2017 and a draft notification was even prepared in 2010.
Alas, road transport minister Oscar Fernandes has been insisting on delaying the date of implementation further on the ground that the automobile industry has been going through a sluggish period. He also fears that the new norms will cause a financial burden the industry cannot bear. Indeed the sales of cars and two-wheelers have been on the wane, but that is mainly because of the downturn in the growth of GDP. The automobile industry should welcome the norms and comply with them early but not later than 2017. India stands to gain from the fuel saved by adopting new technologies.
Countries like the US have been stricter in enforcing such norms. For instance, last year the US set new standards that would double the fuel efficiency of cars sold by 2025. The EU has set new standards which will come into force in 2020. China has also introduced new standards for manufacturers, who are encouraged to make further improvements. As the Global Fuel Economy Initiative of the UN Environment Programme points out, a major manufacturing country like India can afford to set new standards which the industry has to follow. Given this backdrop, the government should stand firm on enforcing the new norms from 2017.