E-Auto Scheme

The Supreme Court of India had imposed a restriction in 1997 on the number of autorickshaws that can ply in Delhi. The limit was twice relaxed. Today, it stands 1,00,000.

Introduction of e-autos is praiseworthy

Approximately 95 thousand autorickshaws are already on road with the concurrence of the Supreme Court of India. The Delhi government decided to allot 4,261 battery operated autorickshaws (e-auto) including one third of these, i.e., 1,406 vehicles, to the women.

We, as a union responsive to society, fully support the introduction of e-autos in order to reduce urban air pollution. We are also in favour of ever-increasing participation of women in the economic activity of the city-state.

E-auto scheme fails

However, with only 269 e-autos registered by 09.06.2022, the scheme of e-autos has failed miserably and massively. The government had set 30.04.2022 as the last date for registration. This date was subsequently extended to 31.07.2022.

We list below some of the reasons for this failure:

1. Opening scheme to entire Delhi was wrong

The allotment of e-auto should have been restricted to genuine autorickshaw drivers who can be easily identified if they hold a Badge. Instead, the scheme was thrown open to every resident of Delhi who has an Aadhar number and a driving license for a car. This made more than half of Delhi’s population of 2 crore eligible for the allotment of the e-auto. Almost every doctor, every lawyer, every industrialist, every MLA/minister or any person regardless of one’s profession became eligible. The process was made so quick and easy and without any cost or commitment that more than 90% of the applicants were non-serious people. They forgot about their applications immediately. It played havoc with the livelihood of genuine auto drivers who have been waiting for decades to become owners of autorickshaws which are in limited supply.

2. Legal process not followed

The entire process right from the beginning up to final vehicle registration should have been in public eye through public notices at various stages such as invitation including all terms and conditions, notice of draw of lots, opportunity to witness draw of lots, details about various vehicles and financing options in the market, etc. No such process was followed which is not only illegal but reeks of corruption on account of secrecy and opacity.

3. Delhi government scheme to promote finance mafia

The government had nominated a private company called CESL in order to facilitate the purchase, financing and interest subvention (subsidy) of 5%. This company should have tied up with all dealers of all vehicles, created a marketplace for all kinds of financiers including banks, and gone into a heavy duty awareness campaign. Instead, the company tied up with only 3 vehicles makes, 4 financiers who charge interest like loan-sharks and no awareness campaign was conceived or run. No wonder, the government chosen CESL had a major hand in the scheme’s failure.

4. Lack of awareness vs. political promotion

The government ought to have carried advertisements, making people aware of the benefits of e-autos and full details of the availability of charging infrastructure. However, the government chose to publish multiple full page political advertisements with beaming mugshot of the chief minister costing crores of rupees and serving no useful purpose. Similarly, advertisements on thousands of autos costing huge amount of money promoted the chief minister more than the e-autos.

The right decision to take for the government would be to now halt the e-auto scheme as it is and start the whole process afresh while it is accompanied by a high-pitched awareness campaign and facilitation of creation of charging infrastructure.

5. Free market is good

Our union wants the market forces to decide the number of autos rather than an artificial court mandate which pushes up the cost of vehicles in the grey market to the detriment of the community of drivers. Throwing open the market may have short term adverse consequences but it will be good for everybody’s interest in the long run including the passengers when the dust settles down.