For the middle-income group in Delhi or any Indian city, cars were part of the family jewels. It was a matter of pride to keep them running and their body shine. A sudden rise in awareness about air pollution changed the whole scenario.

Cars older than 15 years could no longer have registration in Delhi. Now, t h e Un i o n Bu d g e t h a s announced a scrapping policy for old vehicles. While this could provide many an easy mechanism to get rid of cars, which were “accidented” or worn-out, for others in Delhi-NCR, who had maintained their vehicles well, it could only give some more worry. Delhi has millions of cars.

It will not be surprising if the quick policy changes make people worry if they had made the right decisions in buying cars.

The cars have been getting costlier. For most, the cars had to be bought not for status symbol but because there was no choice.

As the metropolis grew in all directions, there was little growth in public transport.

Buses are still rarely seen in many parts of the city. Autos and taxis charge prohibitive fares, which are difficult for the salaried class people to afford. The Delhi Metro has its routes and those left out have to just look around for help.

The cars served many purposes, besides being available all the time.

The salaried did not find it inconvenient to maintain cars, if they performed all utility functions. The news that the cars would have to be scrapped after some time, would be bad for many, unless the vehicles were really useless.

Delhi’ites could see that it is the massive variety of goods carriers running on city roads, along with semi-industrial clusters within the city, that are responsible for air pollution to a large extent.

They should be the prime focus of anti-pollution drives, along with buses. The burning of crop residue in neighbouring states has also been identified as a cause of air pollution in Delhi.

There is an unending construction activity going on in the city without any protection; the paved roads are covered with earth dropped by carriers of building materials everywhere. Mathura Road users have seen massive earth on the Pragati Maidan side for years.

The vehicles run over earth everywhere and make the particulate matter a permanent part of the air we breathe. Incidentally, the city roads in India are never fully paved in spite of huge costs; they leave large spaces uncovered at one or both sides. In western countries, roads mean just roads, and their width spreads from one pavement to the other.

This allows more road-space for buses and other vehicles. The wear and tear of cars in large Indian cities is also because of potholes and “kutcha” patches. In spite of difficult road conditions, an Indian family sees its grandpa taking care of his old vehicle on a regular basis.

The car models which have been phased out recently had such metalbodies which could suffer many a beating on the roads. According to the proposed “voluntary vehicle scrapping policy” for the whole country, the old and unfit vehicles will be phased out, which will encourage fuelefficient, environment friendly vehicles that would thereby reduce vehicular pollution and oil import bills. The objectives are indisputable.

The vehicles will undergo fitness tests in automated fitness centres after 20 years in case of personal vehicles, and after 15 years in case of commercial vehicles. The Road Transport and Highways Ministry promptly welcomed the policy, and will follow it up with details in a fortnight.

The Ministry has already estimated that the scrappage policy will lead to new investment of around Rs 10,000 crore, and create as many as 50,000 jobs. A new industry for recycling of waste metal is expected to emerge.

Hopefully, this will not be another cause for fresh pollution!