Srinagar: Almost all the Pollution Checking Centres (PCC) in Kashmir have been found to be using “fraudulent means” and violating rules set by the Jammu & Kashmir Motor Vehicles Department (MVD). Manipulation of software, checking equipment, and overcharging are some of the fraudulent means being used by the centres in what officials have described as “eyewash” in the name of pollution checks of vehicles. Inspection teams from the Pollution Control Board and the Motor Vehicles Department found these malpractices in inspections carried out in the recent few months.
As per the rules set by the motor vehicles department, a PCC must possess a workable piece of land where at least five vehicles can be accommodated. The person operating the centre should have a valid qualification certificate in mechanical or automobile trade with at least one year of experience.
Besides, the centres should get no-objection certificates (NOCs) from local authorities confirming that their functioning won’t affect the environment. The pollution checking equipment should also be purchased only from companies approved by the Ministry of Surface Transport or Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI).
Moreover, an applicant has to re-calibrate the checking equipment after an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) on yearly basis. He also has to deposit Rs 10,000 as security, authorisation fee of Rs 7,000, and Rs 3,000 annually as renewal fee.
Officials who carried out inspections in the past few months told Kashmir Reader that nearly all the centres operating in Kashmir had fulfilled few of these rules. The pollution checking at these centres was just “eyewash”, they said.
“Almost all of them (PCCs) are working through fraudulent means. Not a single centre was found in the Valley where all the guidelines were being followed. At a few centres we observed manipulations done to the software for monetary benefits,” said the legal advisor to the State Pollution Control Board, MM Shah.
He said that the permissible emission level in petrol-driven vehicles was measured at 0.3 and if the emission level crosses this limit, it becomes toxic.
“But instead of identifying the defects and asking customers to overhaul their vehicle, the owners manipulate the pollution checking equipment,” Shah told Kashmir Reader.
There are 138 PCCs operating in J&K and 70 of them are in the Kashmir and Ladakh divisions.
As per the Transport Department, the authorised pollution checking centres have to charge Rs 15 for two-wheelers or cars and Rs 25 for three-wheelers and taxies, but PCCs in Batamaloo, Bage-Mahtab, Nowgam and many other places were charging Rs 40 to Rs 70.
Last month, a division bench of the J&K High Court had directed the authorities to determine if the PCCs were functioning properly.
“The status report shall be filed by the PCB to indicate the number of inspections of the pollution checking centres,” the HC had ordered on June 10.
The directions from HC came after the PCB conveyed that pollution from vehicles was largely responsible for the growing air pollution in the state.
After repeated warnings by the court, the motor vehicles department suspended 10 PCCs in the Valley over the past few months. Many others were asked to mend their ways or face action.
Transport Commissioner Saugat Biswas told Kashmir Reader that all the PCCs found to be violating norms have been served notices that their registration would be cancelled if anyone is found violating norms.
“A separate cell that includes officials from the PCB is carrying out inspections of all the centres. So far, 10 centres have been suspended. We have given the rest a 15-day ultimatum to shun their fraudulent ways. If they won’t do so, their registration would be cancelled,” Biswas said.