Clean, free, safe transport system is Delhi government's top priority: Kailash Gahlot
Delhi’s Transport & Environment Minister Kailash Gahlot said the landmark EV policy will give a big boost to zero-emission vehicles and his government’s vision of making Delhi the EV capital of India.
Delhi is the first state in India where electric vehicles (EV) are replacing petrol and diesel vehicles at a rapid pace. In October, within just a few weeks of the Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy launch, over 3,000 battery-operated cars were registered.
Delhi’s Transport & Environment Minister Kailash Gahlot said the landmark EV policy will give a big boost to zero-emission vehicles and his government’s vision of making Delhi the EV capital of India. In an interview with Gayathri Mani, Gahlot also said a free, safe and clean public transport system will be the AAP government’s main target.
The EV policy aims to make Delhi the EV capital of India by 2024, with a target of 25 per cent e-vehicles on the ground. What are the plans of the Delhi government to achieve the target? Are people showing interest?
Purchase incentives are the most important thing. That’s why our government is giving an incentive of up to Rs 1.5 lakh on the purchase of a 4-wheelers. Those looking to buy scooters can get up to Rs 30,000 off, whereas other EVs like autorickshaws also get the same benefit. The second is road tax and then, the registration. Also, to eliminate corruption and keep the buyers safe from falling prey to the hands of touts, we have made the procedure completely digital with no human intervention.
The buyers will not need to visit any office, fill up an application form or run from pillar to post to get the subsidies. We have put the entire responsibility on the dealers. The dealer from whom the buyer is purchasing a vehicle will approve the application. The requirement of the application has also been made very simple — you only need the invoice, driving licence and Aadhaar card. The dealer will upload the application and documents on the official website ev.delhi.gov.in and it will go to the MLO, who will then check and forward it to the bank. We have set a target of three days. Within this period, the subsidy will be deposited in the buyer’s bank account. Nearly 1,448 people have applied for incentives so far.
Further, the government is working to put an end to rumours over the batteries and charging stations. For instance, when the CNG was introduced, people were apprehensive and worried about the availability of CNG pumps/stations. We can see similar apprehensions among people regarding EV charging stations. Thus, we have planned to set up a charging station in the radius of every 3 km and to achieve that target, the transport department is working very aggressively. Recently, all Delhi and non-Delhi government departments had held a meeting and identified locations for setting up e-charging stations. It will take time some, to begin with. But once there are more EV stations, people will start opting for battery-operated vehicles. We are also promoting EVs in rural areas. Many people have shown interest, too, — many from my Vidhan Sabha constituency, Najafgarh, have purchased e-cars in the recent past.
It has been announced that 250 charging stations will be set up by 2021. How many e-charging stations are in Delhi so far?
The transport department is entering into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Energy of Efficient Services Limited (EESL). About 50 sites have been identified. We are trying to set up charging stations at all the DTC, cluster depots, terminals, MLO, RTO offices as soon as possible to ensure that people don’t have to face problems in charging their vehicles. Although people can opt for overnight charging at their house, the government is setting up such stations to charge their vehicles in 20-30 minutes.
Currently, there are 70 EV charging stations in Delhi, but they are mostly located in New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) areas. In the next four to five months, you will find stations across the national capital as the tendering process for installing 100 e-charging stations is in its final stage. It is being done by the Delhi Transco Limited. Delhi Transco Limited EV stations will be set up at petrol pumps, parking lots and DMRC sites.
The EV policy promises to address various issues. What were the main thoughts while drafting such a policy?
Thoughts were many, but the aim was to create a policy that should be simple, effective and realistic. We wanted to see the execution of policy in actual; like incentives, free parking, road tax, registrations, website, swapping of batteries and a clean ecosystem with zero-emission. We wanted to create a policy to execute it, and not to fake it. The entire credit goes to CM Arvind Kejriwal.
How many government vehicles used by officers and ministers are EVs?
Currently, there is none, but that is on our list. Very soon, we will gradually switch to electric vehicles, and it will also be mandatory. To give a message to the public, we are beginning it from the transport department. I have already told the DTC that this will be the last hiring of diesel and petrol vehicles. From next year, all the government-owned vehicles such as flying squad, enforcement vehicles and others hired for the use of senior officers will be completely electric. We were supposed to begin the process this year itself, but due to the pandemic, which had affected our work, we allowed the petrol and diesel vehicles to continue.
The FAME I and FAME II policies did not see mass adoption of electric vehicles.
It might be due to some gaps in the execution. But the Delhi government is closely monitoring the development of the policy every week. Even if any vehicle is rejected, the department looks in detail, finds out the reason for rejection and the solution for that. About 10% of EVs are getting rejected. I am personally monitoring to find out the reason for that, even though the rejection percentage is less. This should improve the work as the MLO or other officials concerned would know that the process is being keenly monitored by the transport minister.
What will be the functions of the state electric vehicle board?
The primary role of the state EV board is to see whether the policy is being executed properly or not. Timely monitoring of the targets and goals, and see if we are achieving those targets. If not, then what are the reasons and what steps should be taken to solve the problems.
The buses under the DTC were last procured in 2010. What is taking so long to purchase new ones? What is the government doing to strengthen the public transport system?
The buses under the DTC were last procured in 2008, the tender was approved in 2007-08 and the buses were delivered in 2010. Secondly, passengers do not care if the bus is red, blue or green, DTC or cluster. All that matters is reliable, comfortable and safe travel with affordable prices. It is also wrong to say that new buses had not been procured since 2010. We have added 1,000 standard floor buses and 600 state-of-art low floor buses to the fleet of cluster services.
Further, the credit should be given to the Delhi government because, despite several hiccups, it is finally going to add 1,000 buses under the DTC’s fleet; the company has been finalised for the same and the DTC board has also approved it. It will get the cabinet approval in the next 10-15 days. These buses will start coming between April and May 2021. Another tender is underway to purchase 300 electric buses under the DTC this month.
There are challenges as well. One of them is the lack of land for constructing depots. Unfortunately, but the DDA is not allotting us land. So, bus depots are also an important part of the public transport system. The Delhi government has identified locations in Rohini and on the JNU road and paid the amount for that, but the DDA is yet to give us the land.
Therefore, the transport department has entered into an agreement with National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) for constructing multi-level bus depots. The first four will be coming up at Vasant Vihar, Hari Nagar and Shadipur. Talking about the Centre, it had made tall promises of women safety, but the Delhi government has not received a single penny from the Nirbhaya Fund yet. On the other hand, the Delhi government has installed CCTV cameras, panic buttons and GPS in all the existing 5,500 buses. A state-of-art command centre, which was under construction at Kashmere Gate to monitor the surveillance system of buses, is almost ready and only its integration is left. It will be inaugurated next month.
Once the command centre will be functional, every nook and corner of buses in Delhi will be under surveillance and is expected to put an end to criminal activities on board. Also, after the deployment of bus marshals, we are working on the contactless ticketing system. A ‘passenger information system’ is also being planned through which the passenger can get real-time data and information about the arrival and departure of buses.
The transport department is also working on a target to provide transport facility in a radius of every 500 metres — be it a bus, Gramin Seva, e-rickshaw or RTV, and to ensure it, we have taken up a route rationalisation study which has been completed. The study was launched in Najafgarh on a pilot basis, where we found trunk routes. Thus, we are waiting for the new buses to come. Once they are added to the fleet, we will ensure that the commuters get buses in a frequency of 10-12 minutes on all trunk routes. Further, the area where buses cannot enter, minibuses, e-rickshaw and the Gramin Seva facility will be provided.
What are your plans to promote cycling in the city?
Most cyclists in Delhi have a fear of getting hit by a vehicle.Multiple agencies are working on road safety, but the transport department has created a dedicated ‘Road Safety Cell’ with a special commissioner of transport as its chairperson. The cell is working with the traffic police, PWD and other departments to create an environment and safer road for the public. We are also working with an NGO ‘Save Life Foundation’ on reducing road mishaps. Under the initiative, we conduct a study of the black spots to find out the reasons, including faulty road design, lack of pedestrian facility, missing marks, signboards and blinkers, behind the accidents. Then, measures are taken to improve the stretch, making it safer for commuters and pedestrians. Currently, the study was done and implemented at Mukarba Chowk, the next will at ITO.
A design competition was conducted for the construction of a long-pending proposal for 1,200 bus shelters. Unable to attract bidders, the project was handed over to the PWD by the DTIDC. What are the updates?
The design is ready, and the project was set to begin this year. But it could not be taken up due to the financial crunch amid the pandemic. But soon, the tender for the project will be floated by the PWD.
E-rickshaws have become a major reason for traffic jams and over 50 per cent of them are unauthorised. Is the government planning to regulate these vehicles?
Primarily, it is the role of the traffic police to regulate these e-rickshaws, but we also write to the traffic police department whenever we receive complaints. We also need to understand that it is a source of livelihood and provides last-mile connectivity to the Metro passengers. Having said that, a little regulation of these vehicles is needed.
Do you think the speed limit of 60 km per hour on many roads is okay? Is the Delhi government planning to increase the limit?
We had held a meeting with the special commissioner and joint commissioner of Delhi Police, Traffic, recently. We have discussed all the issues and complaints coming from the commuters regarding speed limits. Both the traffic police and transport department are reviewing the matter. Besides, we are planning to take up the matter in the next road safety cell meeting since the power of fixing the speed limits should be in the hands of the Delhi government as it comes under the Motor Vehicles Act. Road institutes and road experts will also be engaged to discuss what measures can be taken in this regard.
The DTC, which is said to be running at a loss, sends proposals to hike fares every year. Are there any plans to hike the fares?
Which public transport system is making a profit? Why cannot we see how much profit is being made by the education and health sectors by giving free services? Our target is not to make money, but to provide safe, reliable, efficient, economic and affordable service to the public. If the ticket prices are increased, the passenger will not spend Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 on buses. Instead, he/she will buy his own scooter or a car, which will lead to a further increase in pollution and traffic jams. We want the public system to be free and safe and more people come forward to use public transport. The transport department is also coming up with the bus aggregator policy. The tender process is currently put on hold as many are still working from home due to the Covid-19 fear.
A hydrogen CNG plant has been set up at the Rajghat depot. Currently, how many DTC buses are running on HCNG? Has the government identified more sites to install more such plants?
Currently, about 50 DTC buses are running on hydrogen-CNG fuel under the trial basis for six months. After that, we will see and plan accordingly.
EV charging stations in Delhi
Currently, there are 70 EV charging stations in Delhi, but they are mostly located in New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) areas. In the next four to five months, you will find stations across the national capital as the tendering process for installing 100 e-charging stations is in its final stage
Transport facility at every 500 m
The transport department is also working on a target to provide transport facility in a radius of every 500 metres — be it a bus, Gramin Seva, e-rickshaw or RTV, and to ensure that, we have taken
up a route rationalisation study which has been completed. The study was launched in Najafgarh
No road tax on battery-operated vehicles
In October, Kailash Gahlot had said the Delhi government has exempted road tax on battery-operated vehicles under its new Electric Vehicle Policy. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had in August announced the Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy 2020, promising to waive road tax and registration fee and to provide an incentive of up to Rs 1.5 lakh for new cars. The policy focused to enhance adoption of electric vehicles in Delhi by incentivising their purchase and use and raising registration to five lakh by 2024.