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A mandatory annual fitness certificate has been proposed for private vehicles in New Delhi.
It's not how fit you are to drive a car but how fit your car is to drive you around without breaking down in the middle of Delhi's snarling traffic.
A new proposal could make it mandatory for private car and motorcycle owners in the national Capital to get an annual fitness certificate for their vehicles stating their road-worthiness. Or else, the owners could face hefty fines and other penalties. In worse cases, their car could get impounded and towed away to the junkyard.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has proposed this radical plan to reduce the number of privately-owned unfit cars from the roads and prevent such vehicles from holding up traffic when they break down in the middle the streets or cause accidents because of mechanical failures related to poor maintenance.
The EPCA and its chairman Bhure Lal have more or less managed to convince the Delhi government after several rounds of meetings on this proposal, which is in tune with standards followed abroad such as the UK where an annual test is essential for every vehicle aged three years and above.
Senior government officials said Delhi's lawmakers and transport department bosses have welcomed the idea of changing the vehicle inspection and maintenance rules in the Capital, which has a humungous fleet of 7,00,000 cars - the largest concentration in the country with around 1,300 new ones getting added daily.
Until now, for example, when somebody bought a new car they were given a registration certificate (RC) valid for 15 years, after which the vehicle has to be inspected and re-registered by transport officials. This RC, as it is commonly called, acted as a fitness certificate - giving any lazy or careless car- owner the leeway to avoid maintenance of his vehicle until it stopped in the middle of chock-a-block traffic.
"There is hardly any mechanism to check the maintenance system of vehicles. During re-registration, officials issue certificates by merely looking at the cars. Subjective and visual inspection does not provide any input about the car's steering column, brakes, suspension, joints, noise level, headlamp position and emission level," a transport official said.
The EPCA chief agreed. "It is a general trend to run vehicles without proper maintenance. There is no fitness regime for private cars and you will find 30- year-old vehicles on the roads. This leads to accidents, casualties and, to say the least, pollution," Lal said.
But the new "fitness regime", which has the backing of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), could enforce a paradigm shift in the way people maintain their cars.
Explaining how it will be implemented, a transport official said every year people will have to take their car to a registered and approved dealer or mechanic who would inspect all the parameters before giving the fitness certificate. A sticker mentioning the date of expiry of the certificate would be pasted (preferably) on the windshield.
As of now, the plan was akin to the pollution certificate dished out by various outlets for a nominal fee in accordance with government guidelines. But the fitness certificate would entail more than that because an entire gamut of mechanical and electrical equipment, as well as dents andscratches on the body, would have to be inspected. Hence, the SIAM and the Federation of Automobiles Dealers Association (FADA) would be roped in to ease the burden on the government.
"The transport department will ask carmakers to install a mechanised system in their service outlets and authorise them to act as inspection authority. Transport department officials will hold the right to audit the infrastructure in dealership facilities from time to time," a government official said.
The Delhi transport department has already been burdened with the inspection of commercial vehicles (trucks, tempos and taxis) as it was compulsory for the latter to go for a fitness certificate every year.
In the new plan, if anybody failed to get their "private" car checked after the expiry date, the vehicle would be considered unregistered and without insurance.
The annual exercise has its hitch, especially the financial load. A transport official said: "Suppose a tyre's life on the road is 35,000 km. But people tend to ignore it for, say, another 5,000 km. According to the new plan, any tyre that has crossed the manufacturer's recommended km limit will have to be changed. That means money."
Several car owners found the plan phoney - a new way to make money on the sly. "We will have to pay to the manufacturers for small faulty fittings in the vehicles. Generally, costs of accessories are higher at company workshops than at the open market. The manufacturers are behind this new rule," government employee Gaurav Dhawan said.
Smalltime auto-dealers said their business would be hit. But automobile expert and transport official Anil Chhikara begged to differ.
He said: "Wear and tear affect a vehicle's efficiency vis-a-vis more noise, reduction of power transmission, high fuel combustion, increased tyre degradation, frequent breakdowns, etc. Vehicle owners, currently, don't have an accurate mechanism to know the nature of the wear and tear. The annual test will provide full information about the assemblies."
International Road Federation chairman K. K. Kapila said the nation was in dire need of a fitness regime. "The government should introduce it for its many benefits. Fit vehicles will ensure lesser accidents," he added.
What about the countless number of vehicles from the neighbouring states that plough the city's roads?
EPCA's Lal said this aspect was discussed with the governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. "We have demanded the inspection and maintenance system be implemented in other states, too," he added.
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