New Delhi/Nagpur: The intersection of Delhi’s hottest day this year (44 degrees) and huge protests by taxi drivers left large parts of the capital grid-locked through Monday. By the evening, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the government will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider a ban on diesel cabs, that has pulled nearly 30,000 taxis off the roads.
The central government said the ban has created an unprecedented situation and has also resulted in immediate loss of jobs for thousands of taxi drivers.
On Saturday, judges refused industry requests for more time to switch from diesel to greener compressed natural gas (CNG).
Many of Delhi’s taxis already run on CNG, but the ban applies to 30,000 traditional cabs and some working for app-based Uber and Ola services.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring authorities to reduce dangerous levels of haze and dust that choke the city, with a string of orders last year including a ban on new, large diesel cars, mainly SUVs.
Angry taxi drivers blocked key intersections in Delhi and the satellite city of Gurgaon on Monday morning, bringing peak-hour traffic to a standstill for hours.
“You can’t have knee-jerk solutions to long-standing problems,” Balwant Singh, who heads a taxi union of 500 members, said at a noisy demonstration in central Delhi.
“Why go after commercial passenger vehicles only? Private diesel cars are running freely on the roads, why not stop them?”
Some drivers said they knew of no available technology to switch from diesel to CNG and would instead be forced to buy new taxis.
A 2014 World Health Organisation survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted, partly because of the nearly 10 million vehicles on its roads.
The ban by the court, which was acting on a petition, came just days after the end of another two weeks of “odd-even” that kept about one million cars off Delhi’s roads.
But Delhi-based research institute TERI said its analysis found the measures had not significantly reduced concentrations of PM 10 and PM 2.5 during the first week.
These fine particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometres are linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.