The trade-off between having an efficient public transport system to ease commuting woes in urban places and public health is proving to be harmful for the latter. As there is little or no chance of a cleaner fuel emerging in the near future and private operators of public transport are not much enamoured of electric vehicles and are unwilling to make the change, people will have to suffer the smoke and soot emitting vehicles (such as the one in the lead picture) for many more years.
The picture provides a glaring example of how public transport vehicles are the biggest culprits when it comes to flouting pollution norms. The irony is that it also shows how ill-kept these vehicles are. Imagine the person or the company that has installed the advertisement at the back of this Kolkata mini-bus. What kind of mileage is the ad getting? It is permanently covered in thick black soot. There is not even a need to test this vehicle for emission. It is a moving evidence of its own ‘crime’. Yet it escapes scrutiny of all traffic policemen doing duty on the streets or the numerous cameras installed at important street crossings.
It needs to be recognized that operating public transport by private operators is not a charitable exercise. It is a business venture and these operators have chosen it as yields profits for them. Hence they have no right to ignore the maintenance of the vehicles to cause health problems for the citizens. The emissions are a direct result of poor injector maintenance, excessive fuel delivery rates or poor driving technique. Smoke emissions mean that the vehicle is wasting fuel and engine damage is probably occurring. Routine servicing will eliminate many problems that cause smoke emissions and save time and money.
The police and the public vehicles department have to be extra strict with operators of these vehicles. It is seen that when random pollution checks are conducted in special drives, it is private vehicles that are targeted. This is wrong policy. Public transport vehicles, including metered and app cabs, trucks and other goods carriers must be routinely targeted. It must be impressed upon operators of such vehicles that things as they exist now will no longer be tolerated. They have to maintain their vehicles properly to ensure that they are not moving health hazards.