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Cab drivers derail traffic again, Delhi asks SC to relax order

New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Commuters in Delhi continued to face hardships for the second successive day on Tuesday as taxi drivers blocked three major roads in the morning, causing traffic snarls across several parts of the city. The Delhi government urged the Supreme Court to relax its order banning diesel and petrol cabs.

Dozens of drivers protesting against a Supreme Court ban on diesel- and petrol-driven cabs parked their taxis on the Mahipalpur flyover leading to the Indira Gandhi International Airport causing major snarls. The road linking Delhi with Noida in Uttar Pradesh and another in south Delhi linked to Gurgaon in Haryana was blocked.

In no time, hundreds of vehicles were caught up on both sides of the roads — like on Monday.

Police reached all three spots and engaged the drivers in discussion from about 9 a.m.

“We tried to reason with them that their protest was causing hardships to people and this wasn’t fair. We told them that if they had issues with any judicial ruling, they must talk to the government,” Joint Commissioner of Police Sharad Aggarwal told IANS.

He said that some of the drivers who accepted the reasoning took away their taxis. Those who refused to were taken to a police station and their taxis were impounded.

“The entire process took 45 minutes to an hour. By then, there were jams everywhere,” he said.

He said the traffic eased after about three hours and there was no traffic jams later in the day.

According to the Delhi government, there are over 60,000 diesel cabs registered in the city of which about 29,000 cars have an all-India permit while the rest have city permits.

As the city government on Tuesday urged the apex court to relax its order banning cabs on operating on diesel and petrol, a headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur asked it to give a roadmap for phasing out diesel cabs and switching over to cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel and listed the matter for Wednesday.

The court also said that its order to ban diesel and petrol taxis was not to cause any inconvenience to the people but to curb rising pollution levels in the capital city, considered to be one of the worst-polluted in the world.

The Delhi government said it was “fully committed for tackling pollution. However, a problem has arisen for the citizens”.

Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai also held a meeting with the taxi drivers, owners and taxi unions seeking their suggestion to present their side to the apex court.

After the meeting, Krishan Yadav, president of the Indian Tourist Transporters Association told IANS: “We are happy that the government has called to seek our suggestions on the apex court ruling.”

In a statement, app-based taxi service provider Ola cabs meanwhile said that there is no technology to convert diesel to CNG so the salvage value of these cars are negligible, and welcomed the Delhi government’s decision to move the apex court, for the sake of the livelihoods of tens of thousands of drivers.

“We thank the government for having taken cognisance of the plight of these drivers, by moving the Supreme Court on this issue,” an Ola spokesperson said in the statement.

“Livelihoods of tens of thousands of drivers who have taken a loan and bought a new diesel cab in the last two years are at stake with substantial EMIs pending,” he said.

After extending the deadline for the change twice, the apex court had on Saturday refused to give more time to taxi operators to switch to CNG and banned diesel and petrol-based taxis in Delhi and NCR from May 1.

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