The state transport department has written to the Centre seeking approval to purchase 500 electric buses (EBs) supported under Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles) FAME II Scheme in India for the city and four towns such Siliguri, Durgapur, Haldia and Dinhata in Cooch Behar district.

“Hardly, two weeks ago we have sent a proposal to the ministry of heavy industry seeking approval to purchase 500 electric buses under the Central scheme FAME II for Kolkata, Siliguri, Cooch Behar, Durgapur and Haldia. We are awaiting the ministry’s clearance on the matter,” said Mr R K Maiti, officer on special duty (OSD) and ex-officio additional secretary in the transport department.

In its first move the central government has recently asked transport departments across states to send proposals for deployment of 5000 EBs.

According to the rules and conditions made by the ministry of heavy industry, every selected city will be provided a subsidy of 40 percent of total costs of an EB or maximum Rs 55 lakh for per such bus of 10-12 metres. The incentive for a 8-10 metres long bus will be around Rs 45 lakh.

The main focus of this phase of the FAME II scheme is the electrification of public and shared transportation. The Department of Heavy Industries has already issued an expression of interest (EOI) fixing timeliness for every state if they are interested to secure the central subsidy.

“Each bus of 10-12 metres will cost around Rs 70 lakh. Two hundred buses will be plying in Kolkata while Siliguri, Cooch Behar, Durgapur and Haldia will have 50 fleets each,” a senior official of the transport department at Paribahan Bhaban said requesting anonymity.

Transport department has already started plying of 40 buses in city roads, he added.

During end of July, the state finance minister Mr Amit Mitra had come down heavily on the Niti Aayog, that plans to ply electric vehicles (EVs) phasing out buses, private cars, two wheelers run by petrol and diesel by 2025 across the country.

Recently, Niti Aayog has asked automobile industries to submit their plans on how to switch over to EVs within two weeks. Mr Mitra said, “How does the Niti Aayog, a mere think tank, take such a move to switch over to EVs phasing out the petrol and diesel-run vehicles by 2025? This is impractical and draconian. Yesterday, the GST Council has informed us to hold a video conference with states on Thursday to discuss the issue of EVs. They are in a hurry only on a single agenda at a time when several other other issues relating to tax raised by us are pending before them.”

“It’s being made to understand that reducing the GST rate from 12 % to 5 % on EVs, will trigger huge investment in the EV sector and create the desired infrastructure to move from fossil fuel vehicles to EVs. This argument takes a very myopic view of the industry completely ignoring the disastrous impact which will entail for the existing automobile units and the entire auto service sector,” he said.