Govt. move to ban 15-year-old diesel autorickshaws may affect over 700 drivers in Kozhikode city
They have been going through acute financial crisis since COVID-19 outbreak
The State government’s decision to ban diesel-powered autorickshaws older than 15 years is likely to affect over 700 drivers within Kozhikode city limits. The move, to be effective from January next, comes as a shocker for many who have been going through an acute financial crisis since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) officials say the move is part of the Union and State governments’ policy to promote green energy and reduce pollution. To continue the service, such diesel vehicle owners will have to opt for new vehicles powered by electrical energy, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).
In Kozhikode, there are 4,337 autorickshaws with special permits for operating within the Corporation limits. The majority of these vehicles are diesel-powered and the new rule may affect many of them in the years to come. “Only very limited number of autorickshaws operate now, as the pandemic threat continues. No driver will be able to think of selling or disposing diesel vehicles to purchase electric or gas-powered ones,” says A.K. Sajeevkumar, a union leader in the city.
According to him, there are about 250 drivers who operate LPG, CNG or LNG-powered autorickshaws in different parts of Kozhikode, but they are yet to get city service permit. “If the government is only focused on promoting electric-powered vehicles, people like us will again be in trouble,” he adds.
The repayment of vehicle loans is pending for a majority of drivers. Union leaders say the new rule will gradually displace many poor drivers who fear taking loans again for purchasing new vehicles. Krishnakumar, an autorickshaw driver from Mavilikkadavu, says the steep fall in daily revenue will never prompt anyone to take such a risk.
Meanwhile, road transport workers in the city are planning to launch a joint protest against the government move from November 17. Functionaries of the Kerala State Auto Taxi and Light Motor Workers’ Federation say they will stage a three-day satyagraha near the KSRTC bus stand. “What we seek is possible extension of the proposed rule or proper rehabilitation support for the affected section of drivers,” they add.