Fighting toxic air: Go for big sharks, not soft targets

It’s not just the question of making public transport pliable. It's more about making the use of public transport more palatable.

Published: 18th July 2022 08:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th July 2022 08:13 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | EPS, Naveen Kumar)

Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | EPS, Naveen Kumar)

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has come out with a flurry of advisories, recommendations and directions to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR. These recommendations have created quite turmoil in the city and its neighbouring townships largely on the account of the directives which would affect the common citizens.

First and foremost, the clamp on the diesel vehicles. The decision to deal the private cars at par with commercial vehicles comes as a rude shock. It has been decided as part of the new Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to ban diesel vehicles that don’t conform to BS-VI when Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the “severe-plus” category.

The main objection of the private vehicle owners is that out of the 25 lakh vehicles registered in Delhi in the past five years, diesel vehicles, which include hybrid vehicles, constitute less than five per cent. There is also no specific study to indicate the specific ‘high’ contribution of diesel vehicles in the pollution caused by automobiles.

Sidharth Mishra

The green activists point toward the need to shed the use of private vehicles in the favour of public transport. However, they fail to take into account how deficient the public transport system in Delhi and its neighbourhood.

In the case of Delhi, the fleet of Delhi Transport Corporation has receded to 3900 buses (it could be even less). The government has been encouraging the induction of buses by private operators under the cluster system, however, this too has been slow. There are about 3,300 buses being run by private operators. The two together bring the figures to 7200, whereas the expected bus fleet strength in Delhi should be around 1,2000.

Another factor which has led people to opt for private vehicles is the lack of hygiene in public transport. Post-Covid, awareness about hygiene in public places are increased manifold. People also want to avoid rush hour lest they be packed like sardines in the metro coaches and the buses.

It’s not just the question of making public transport pliable. It's more about making the use of public transport more palatable. Under the circumstances, it would be unkind to take away a ‘safe’ transport mode like the private vehicle and force commuters onto hygienically public transport.  

Another concern is that there is no specific notification by the government on under what category the multi-storied apartments spread across Delhi-NCR are to be treated. While logically they should come under the domestic category but in the absence of a clear guideline an overzealous government official, in order to get a good report from the apex court, may end up treating these condominiums as commercial establishments. 

The main issues are backup power and water supplies. Many housing societies are grappling with the question of handling their diesel-run power generators which still have some years to go. Since these societies are never surfeited with funds, raising monies to meet ever-changing government norms could be very taxing. In case they are unable to do so, it could jeopardize the lives of the residents as power cuts are a norm even in these high-end condos.

The same is true on the issue of water supply. In the absence of sufficient supply, most housing societies resort to groundwater extractions. The investment into drilling the bore and operating costs are a big drain on the meagre funds of the societies, which they are forced to incur in the absence of government supplies. Fighting pollution is a good idea but it should not end up as the persecution of soft targets instead of taking on the big sharks.

Sidharth Mishra
Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp