Abandoned to fate
Though private bus operators will have to shoulder a bulk of the responsibility of phasing in CNG buses, they were the last to be informed by the Delhi government. The first public notification for them came in October 1999. The first meeting to discuss the logistics with them happened as late as August 2000. Private bus operators chose to ignore repeated messages from the Supreme Court over the last two years and continued to buy diesel buses. Because the state government registering diesel buses, they went ahead with buying new ones.
The operators are also negotiating financial schemes to tide over the cost of conversion. Predictably, the Delhi government has turned down this demand. The Delhi government proposal to reduce sales tax on buses from 12 per cent to 6 per cent is an eyewash, says H S Kalra, general secretary of the Delhi Bus Operators Forum, a union of Blue Line bus operators: "The cost of a diesel bus is half that of a CNG bus. So, the sales tax will effectively be the same. The government revenue would remain unaffected even as we pay much more for CNG buses. We are being cheated.'
The operators are acting as agents of the diesel lobby to demand diesel buses complying with Euro II emission norms. Kalra points out that the only old bus they got converted to CNG in May 2000 was registered only six months later in November 2000. Rare Technologies, the CNG conversion company, had taken the responsibility of getting it registered. After the company failed to do so, it reconverted the bus to diesel and returned the money charged.