Tax our cars, not our buses: CSE pre budget expectation

New Delhi: The car is not the problem, but government policy is, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The CSE has listed out its demands for Budget 2008-09, in a letter to Union finance minister P Chidambaram, with a theme for mobility and clean air for all.

With the 9th Auto Expo coming to a close on 17 January, its message should ''make us all sit up,'' says CSE. Personal vehicle ownership is rising in India, and will grow manifold in coming years. There will be a few million more cars, big and small, and many of them driven on toxic diesel, jostling for that limited square inch of space on our limited roads.

Air quality will only deteriorate; energy use will go up, and instead of moving ahead, people will actually grind to a stop due to congestion. We will attain one thing for sure; Gridlock.

However, CSE says that this is a government-made disaster because our policies are weak, and needs to be corrected.

According to Sunita Narain, director of CSE, ''We strongly believe that the current fiscal and regulatory policies do not adequately take into account the social, health and environmental costs of motorisation. In fact, current fiscal policies are distorted and downright wrong as they end up taxing the bus, which moves the largest numbers of people in our city, more than the car, which drives few people but hogs valuable road space.''

In its letter to the finance minister, the CSE says, ''We know currently that in spite of the phenomenal growth of private vehicles in our cities, large numbers – an estimated 60 per cent and above – still travel by bus or bicycle or walk to work. But while cars and two-wheelers move few in our cities, these vehicles fill up our road space and add to inefficiency in travel – congestion and pollution. The personal car in India has not replaced the bus, it has only marginalised it.''