Firing in Delhi as CNG stir turns ugly

 

New Delhi, April 3: Violence erupted in the Capital with angry commuters setting ablaze and stoning buses as the ban on plying of non-CNG carriers forced them to travel on rooftops and trudge long distances while immobilising nearly 10,000 polluting buses and over 20,000 auto-rickshaws.

Irate commuters pelted police with stones, set fire to atleast five buses and damaged 39 others, frustrated by their inability to board overcrowded buses which were plying in numbers far below Delhi’s normal requirements.

Concerned over rising public anger, Delhi government has now extended the time limit for vehicle owners to collect fresh permits till April 15 and allowed them to ply their vehicles on the strength of affidavits that show they have applied for conversion to CNG mode as directed by the Supreme Court.

With confusion reigning supreme, the Delhi government today first approached the Supreme Court for extending the time-limit for obtaining fresh permits but as the apex court deferred the hearing to Wednesday, the Delhi cabinet on its own extended the time for issuance of permits till April 15.

With media highlighting the woes of commuters on the first two days of the month, which were holidays, the impact of the court order hit Delhiites with full fury today as barely 1,000 buses were on the roads for the millions of travellers dependent on public transport.

In a bid to overcome the crisis, some schools in the capital have closed down for the week.

Police fired three rounds in the air in Badarpur area of South Delhi to disperse a mob which resorted to arson and stone throwing, joint commissioner of police (traffic) Maxwell Pereira told reporters.

At least 13 policemen were injured in the stone throwing, he said adding 73 people had been detained on various charges in connection with the violence.

Pereira said 16 of the arrested were drivers and conductors of blueline buses, who were trying to hamper traffic.

As many as 20 additional companies of police were deployed across Delhi to prevent violence, he said adding similar steps will be in force tomorrow as well.

Crowds of agitated people assembled at several other places and smashed window panes of buses and burnt tyres in some areas.

Scenes of crowded bus stops, people trekking long distances and commuters hanging onto the buses and travelling on roof-tops were a common sight. Police had a tough time in bringing them down keeping in view their safety.

Meanwhile, a bus operators’ union today threatened to keep buses off the roads tomorrow to protest the “continued apathy” of the Delhi government.

The newly-formed ‘Rashtriya Parivahan Panchayat’, a conglomerate of four transporters’ organisations, said the strike would be in force for a day only but if the government failed to meet its demands it could be converted into an indefinite strike.

“We have been demanding that the Delhi government exempt all such operators who have placed orders for their new cng buses from sales tax, excise duty, road tax and permit fees,” panchayat convenor ramesh dalal said.

The Centre blamed the Delhi government for the ongoing transport crisis saying the city administration had failed to make a realistic demand assessment of cng which affected creation of necessary infrastructure to meet the fuel needs.

Union Petroleum Minister Ram Naik told reporters that the Delhi government had made no reliable data available regarding the number of vehicles that would run on CNG.

Denying the shortage of CNG filling stations, he said adequate arrangements had been made by the PSUs under his ministry.

Stating that the Centre’s assessment was that Delhi would require 140 filling stations, he said at present, 68 stations and two more stations are ready for commissioning and 10 more would be added in the next four months

 

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