Diesel SUVs are 'socially useless vehicles': Jairam Ramesh

The increasing popularity of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in India is a sure recipe for disaster, reiterated Jairam Ramesh, the union minister for energy and forests.

The minister, who had recently spoken out against diesel-powered SUVs, describing their usage in a country like India as 'criminal' (See: Use of SUVs in India 'criminal': Jairam Ramesh), said that he was not for government intervention in people's right to buy a vehicle of their choice.

He wondered whether the government's objective in subsidising diesel for the poor was served when the fuel was used to run SUVs.

''The larger point I was trying to make was that the government subsidises diesel for social purpose and do diesel vehicles fulfil a social purpose? You can buy what you want, we cannot determine what vehicles you buy. But we can certainly have a fiscal policy which discourages the use of heavy vehicles and SUVs,'' Ramesh told a gathering at the Centre for Environment and Science in Delhi.

Admitting that his earlier comments had 'hurt' a lot of people in the ruling establishment, including those in the media and politics, Ramesh noted with good humour that an American paper had called him 'a buffoon' 

He felt the increasing popularity of SUVs - which he dismissed as 'socially useless vehicles' - in India reflected the trend of affluent and upwardly mobile Indians of embracing the American model of mobility.

''I do believe that if we do replicate the American model of mobility, which the Chinese have done, it is a recipe for disaster for this country,'' said the outspoken minister. ''We cannot replicate that model of mobility.''

The transportation sector, he said accounts for seven per cent of the country's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By 2020, this was likely to double to 14 per cent of all GHG emissions, warned the minister.