The government has announced the imminent introduction of the Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Management Programme [VVMP]. Simply put, it is a vehicle scrappage policy aimed at putting old, unsafe and polluting vehicles to rest rather than allowing them to rust. The minister stated that this is being done in the interest of a clean environment and rider and pedestrian safety.
While the policy is a welcome one for stimulating a slightly sluggish automobile industry into sustainable growth, I ponder about the greater purpose of weeding out unsafe and polluting vehicles from the roads. A personal vehicle need not be 20 years of age to become unsafe. A commercial vehicle need not wait for 15 years to become polluting. It is more than just the age.
A vehicle is unsafe as much for its in-built safety features as for the driver. A vehicle can be toxic as much for its engine and fuel as its maintenance and servicing. So, while there should be a provision for taking vehicles off the roads after a certain age, there needs to be a mechanism to make all younger vehicles undergo mandatory fitness tests once every six months. The current testing mechanisms are full of loopholes, to allow ‘rogue’ vehicles to operate irrespective of the quality of driving and maintenance.
The policy proposes incentives for handing over old vehicles to scrappage centres such as a minimum scrap value, discount on new vehicle purchase, waiver of registration fees and road tax rebates. To me, most vehicles above 15 years of age are anyway not in use due to their obvious inefficiencies and unreliability. Therefore, the incentive should be only for adopting either electric/greener vehicles or choosing public transport solutions. 35 people coming in to hand over their 20 year old two-wheelers need not be encouraged to buy 35 new vehicles, but actually choose the metro or bus instead. And be incentivised to do so. That is a more mature outlook on future mobility.
And talking of pedestrian safety, it will be wonderful if pedestrian walkways could be mandated, and existing encroachments could be removed. That will be the actual solution for those who choose the most sustainable method of movement.
The policy will unravel over the next few months as the timelines show. All stakeholders in the eco-system are enthused because this will bring in investments, employment and move manufacturing and retail into a higher gear.
Just that Zaheer uncle is a bit worried about his sky-blue 1969 Standard Herald. He has preserved it in mint condition with his life’s savings over the years and it is the pride of the entire lane in south Kolkata where he stays. Come June 1, 2024, he does not know of her future status. That brings a tear to this 78-year-young motoring enthusiast!