Vehicle scrapping policy: A giant leap towards pollution free new India

The past decade has seen a sharp rise in the sale of personal automobiles across the country. In order to ensure emission standards are adhered to, the government has mandated frequent tests for vehicles to determine their fitness for use. However, every vehicle has an estimated life, and irrespective of how well an owner takes care of their automobiles, after a certain period, the automobile starts to pollute the environment. In this context, the recently introduced Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Modernization Program, or as it is better known, the vehicle scrapping policy is a forward-looking announcement by minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari.

The new policy mandates the scrapping of commercial vehicles older than 15 years and private vehicles older than 20 years who fail to pass a fitness test at an authorized Centre. According to data by the ministry of road transport and highways, this decision would impact 51 lakh light motor vehicles that are more than 20 years old and 34 lakh vehicles that are over 15 years old. Additionally, this would also bring a check on 17 lakh medium and heavy commercial vehicles that are older than 15 years and without valid fitness certificates.

In order to encourage responsible scrapping of vehicles, the government has decided to provide 4-6 percent of the ex-showroom price of the new vehicle as an incentive. Additionally, vehicle manufactures will be advised to offer discounts up to 5% on presenting a scrapping certificate and registration fees on the new vehicles will be shelved. The policy exempts agriculture equipment and electric vehicles. The Centre has also proposed to state governments to provide up to 25 per cent discount on road tax for buyers who purchase electric vehicles after scrapping old automobiles.

This decision would not only help ensure the environment is protected, but also pave the way for a formal scrapping and recycling industry which is expected to generate 35,000 direct jobs. Additionally, the proposed framework will also support the local automotive sector in becoming the world’s third-largest market by the year 2026. The scrapping policy would also add to India’s “Make in India” mission and compliment Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision by encouraging investment, fostering innovation, enhancing skill development, and creating a world-class infrastructure.

I believe that the provisions to create an ecosystem for phasing out old, unfit and polluting vehicles would not only open avenues for recycling and the automobile industry but more importantly, ensure that environmental and healthcare concerns arising from it are addressed. Our country accounts for 2.5 million deaths per year because of air pollution. Research from across the world has further indicated how air pollution is one of the biggest causes of health concerns for all citizens. The Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in his briefing dated 27 October 2020 stated “It is found that pollution is contributing to mortality in COVID, that’s well established by studies”. A study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research also suggests that 15 percent of deaths across the world are linked with prolonged exposure to air pollution. Studies conducted in India also corroborate the correlation between caseload and areas with high usage of fossil fuels.

In addition to healthcare benefits, the scrapping policy is also going to reduce our imports bills on oil and metals required for the manufacturing of automobiles. This tried and tested model across the world has aided economies to recover from slowdown. Programs such as US’s Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) i.e. ‘Cash for Clunkers’, Germany’s ‘Umweltpramie’ and Canada’s ‘Retire Your Ride’ supported these countries to come out of the 2008 economic crisis. According to a study 28 million vehicles would be off the roads by 2024/25. That in itself is a huge business opportunity for banks and auto manufacturers.

The country has already made headways in establishing testing and scrapping infrastructure.  Now, while upscaling it, we need to integrate it with urban planning to allocate ample land resources to set up Registered Vehicle Scrapping Facility (RVSF). The scrapping industry would gradually evolve and diversify to accommodate both big and small businesses in rural India.  I hope the robust implementation of this program, by first targeting polluted cities, will reap optimum health and economic benefits for the country.