Different Strokes: Tracing the journey of phasing out the 2Stroke to 4Stroke Autorickshaws: Narratives from the Ground

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Background

The Annual Report of the Transport Department for the Year 2016-2017 boasts of the initiative undertaken to introduce Green Autos. [1]

“The Transport Department took the initiative to introduce Green Autos wherein these autos are fitted with 4 stroke Auto LPG engines which are more eco -friendly than the 2 stroke petrol driven engines. These autos are also fitted with Digital Fare Meter for accuracy of readings and the drivers of these autos are educated and dedicated to serve the passengers and tourists. The colours of the hood of these autos are cream yellow and the body is in forest Green colour for easy identification”

The report further expands on one prominent initiative for effective Transport management- that of Vehicular Air Pollution Management Initiative. Under that it lists the following: 

14.1 USE OF LPG AS BASE FUEL IN MOTOR VEHICLES

By amending Section 52 of MV Act 1988, provision has been made for use of LPG in vehicles. The use of LPG in Auto rickshaws and Light motor vehicles is being popularized. Department has already approved 40 LPG Kit models and given permissions for 72 retro fitment centres in Bangalore City and 19 7 retrofitment centers in Karnataka state. Encouragement is given to those who apply to open retro fitment centres. These centres fit approved LPG Cylinders to Auto rickshaws and Light Motor vehicles. 

  1. DEVELOPMENT AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVE FUELS IN VEHICLES

With a view to reducing vehicular air pollution, vehicle manufacturers are introducing new vehicles in the market with eco-friendly alternative fuels like electricity, BATTERY OPERATED, LPG, CNG etc. which are less or zero in emission of pollutants. To encourage and popularize the use of these vehicles, Department is assisting to get loans to battery operated vehicles through financial institutions.

In order to encourage bi-fuel system in Bangalore subsidy of Rs.2000/- was given to each Auto rickshaws owners, for use of authorized LPG kits fitted through approved retro fitment centres. The Scheme of subsidy of Rs 2000/ – has been extended to other 11 places in the state under Government order No. SARIE/33/SAEPA/2007 Bangalore.13.08.2008 where the re-filling stations have been opened and authorised retrofitment facilities available. In Continuation to this, during the year 2 013-14, the vehicles fitted with LPG kits and converted into Bi-fuel mode prior to 31-12-2011 a subsidy amount of Rs.2000/- granted to each of the Autorickshaw owners totaling to Rs.2696000/ has been sanctioned against 1348 applications received in the RTO Offices of Mysore (East, West), Tumkur and Davanagere) also. This scheme has been closed in the year 2014 -15 as the Government has not extended the said scheme.

The Government of Karnataka vide Notification No SRE:04:SEP/2010 Bangalore dt .08-07-2011 has ordered to grant subsidy of Rs. 15 ,000/- each to those who have valid autorickshaw cab permits covered with 2 stroke vehicles registered prior to 01 -04-2000 in Bangalore and other 11 places in the state and replaces the same with New 4 Stroke LPG Auto rickshaw cabs. During the financial year 2012-13, 202 such beneficiaries have been granted and released with a sum of 29,00,000/ – subsidy amount for purchase of 4 stroke LPG Autorickshaw cabs. The said scheme was closed on 31 -03-2013 Further, the Govt.vide order No SARIE 63 SAEPA 2013, dated 4 -2-2014 has accorded permission to continue the said scheme for 2014-15 and also revising the subsidy amount from Rs.15000/ -to Rs.30,000/- by extending the scheme to the owners of Autorickshaws registered prior to 1-04-2003. During the year 2015-16, totally 965 beneficiaries were sanctioned with subsidy of Rs.30,000/ – each totaling to Rs.2,89,50,000/ -. During the year 2016 -17, totally 963 beneficiaries were sanctioned with a subsidy of Rs.30,000/- each totaling to Rs.2,97,90,000/-.

The Government is proposed to promote ethanol-mixed petrol as fuel to control air pollution in the State by selling the same through petrol bunks for which the oil companies and sugar manufacturing companies have to jointly work out the scheme. Further, M/s GAIL Gas Ltd. has established CNG re-filling stations in Bangalore City. In order to control vehicular pollution and also to encourage the usage of CNG fuel, the Transport Department has granted permission to four CNG retrofitment centres in Bangalore City.

In the former Chief Minister’s Budget Speech in the year 2017-2018, it was announced that the Government of Karnataka wishes to make Bengaluru – The Electrical Vehicle Capital of India. Soon after that, a decision was taken to formulate and adopt a Karnataka Electric Vehicle and Energy Storage Policy- 2017.

The Preamble of the policy states that “Electric Vehicles ( EVs) of all types lie in the heart of future sustainable transport system… and is in line with the 2030 UN Sustainability Agenda”.The policy also makes a reference to the Government of India’s Fame Scheme [2] and therefore as opportunities are available, the Karnataka’s policy is based on the principles of the Karnataka Industrial Policy 2014-2019 with a focus on creating enabling environment for investors in the EV segment.

Some of the special initiatives listed in the document include

5.1.2 Migrating to EV environment

5.1.2.1 EV in non- transport and transport vehicles: In order to promote adoptability of EVs, Government of Karnataka has exempted from payment of taxes on all electric non-transport and transport vehicles including e-rickshaws and e-cart under Karnataka Motor Vehicles Taxation Act 1957 with effect from 01/04/2016 vide Notification no SARIE 76 SAEPA 2016 dated 31/03/2016

5.1.2.2 EV in Private Transport: b) Existing auto rickshaws will be encouraged for retrofitting and move towards EV segment c) The following segments of vehicles in Bengaluru will be encouraged to move towards EVs with an intention to achieve 100% electric mobility by 20130 – Auto Rickshaws.

In addition, the Policy also details steps in infrastructure development and charging stations.

Given this context, here’s a bit on the conceptualisation of the series

Auto rickshaws are a significant mode of transport in India, providing door-to-door feeder service, from a mobility perspective. At the same time, the sector as a whole provides an important source of livelihood to the many drivers working in this space. Many rickshaws are either rent or own. In both cases, a significant portion of their income goes in either paying the owner of the fleet or in loan repayment, apart from the regular maintenance and fuel price.

In 2011, the Government of Karnataka mooted the idea of shifting all two-stroke auto rickshaws to four-stroke with a subsidy of Rs. 15,000, to those vehicles registered prior to 1st April 2000 to encourage environmentally vehicles. The government then increased the subsidy in the year 2014-15 to Rs.  30,000, to those registered prior to 1st April 2003, however, the autorickshaw drivers were unhappy given that the average cost of an auto was about 1.5 lakhs.  In the aim of mitigating air pollution, policy measures sometimes fail to look at other economic parameters such as access to capital, in terms of loans and other subsidies. What are other undocumented challenges faced by the rickshaw drivers during the transition in phasing out? How does new policy measure integrate the drivers, in an attempt to improve mobility from an environmentally friendly perspective? What are the auto drivers say in the entire policy discourse? Do they care about air pollution? 

References:

[1] The Annual Report of the Transport Department for the Year 2016-2017

[2] FAME Scheme: The Government of India approved the National Mission on Electric Mobility in 2011 and subsequently National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 was unveiled ( in 2013). As part of the mission, the Department of Heavy Industry has formulated a scheme namely FAME India ( Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of ( Hybrid & ) Electric Vehicles in India.  The Ministry of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprise’s notification dated 13th March 2015

Brainstorming Discussion 

Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz hosted a focus group meeting and discussion with auto drivers to discuss the challenges and opportunities present on the path to making the shift from two-stroke to four-stroke vehicles.

Here’s a summary of the discussions

One of the main motivations behind the gathering was air pollution – two-stroke autos have been known to cause a lot of pollution, a problem that four-stroke autos with LPG gas can help resolve to a large extent.

The drivers expressed that they started with two-stroke autos and now use four-stroke autos. The problems earlier included the use of mixed or adulterated oil (loose oil available at a low rate); the use of branded oil with seal meant less pollution and helped the drivers maintain their vehicles in a good condition. Drivers have protested against the sale of loose, polluting oil, including writing letters to the state as well as central governments, but no avail. They were then resigned to the fact that nothing is changing.
Through unions, the drivers fought against the steep price and secured Rs. 2,000 in government subsidy, with Rs. 14,000 being the price for an LPG kit. The drivers started using two-stroke vehicles, but a few soon started replacing the gas with loose oil to save money. This worsened the air pollution status.

The four-stroke came in in the year 2000, but was a failure by 2001. Reasons for the failure included the maintenance pressures and high expenses. In 2003- 2004, a four-stroke auto used to cost Rs. 1,15,000; the current rate of an auto is Rs. 2,20,000, including RTO expenses.

Two-stroke vehicles are still running without fitness certificates in the city (fitness means that the vehicle is in good condition to be on the road). To change from two-stroke to four-stroke, a time limit of at least one year is needed, as is more help from the government. The drivers have been asking for subsidies since 2007 – initially, they got Rs.10,000; after a year, they got Rs. 15,000; and again after a few years, they were allocated Rs. 30,000.

In February 2017, 994 vehicles received the Sahayadana, but there are still 5,000 to 6,000 drivers still looking for help. The Karnataka State Government has allotted Rs. 30 crores for the shift, but RTO negligence has resulted in the funds returning to the Government.

Close to 20,000 two-strokes autos are still plying in the city and to change them to four-stroke, they are demanding a subsidy of Rs. 60,000. The cost for a few other procedures has also gone up – like the DL earlier cost Rs.50 but now costs Rs. 400.

Differences between two-stroke autos and 4-stroke autos:

Four-Stroke: • Less noise • Less pollution • Good quality battery • Start button

Two-Stroke: • More Noise • More Pollution • Bad quality battery • Kickstart

Some auto drivers aren’t even aware of four-stroke autos and still driving two-stroke autos. There is a lack of information on the four-stroke autos, so organisations have conducted drivers’ training. Auto drivers mention that to learn the new procedures, they need a maximum of 10 days.

Attendees: M Venketty Gowda – Karnataka Auto & Taxi Chalakara Sagatanneya Rajiya Adiyaakshyaru; Lakshman- Karnataka Kasaggi Vahana Chalakara Sanghadalli Kariyadarshi; Nadish Gowda- Karnataka Auto & Taxi Chalaka Sahakariyadarshi; Ligaraj- Auto Driver; Praveen Kumar- Karnataka Auto & Taxi Chalakara Sanghada Accountant; Durgaiah- Auto Driver; Beula – Radio Active; Pinky-Radio Active; Aishwarya – Researcher on Air Pollution; Marwan; Shivakumar – Auto Driver and RJ.

Post the brainstorming discussion it was decided that 10 Auto union leaders would be interviewed to capture the narratives of this shift and understand their take on air pollution. In addition 10 Auto drivers who have made the transition from two-stroke to four-stroke would share their experiences. 

It was also discussed to do a formal survey of 50 auto drivers using two-stroke auto to understand the reasons for not shifting and future plans.  This study is supported by Climate Trends

Listen in for more…

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