Green Initiatives Drive Change in Punjab’s Transport Landscape

Dilraj Singh (IAS)

“Punjab, with effective policies and better use of technology, is transforming its transport sector,” said Dilraj Singh (IAS), Secretary of the Department of Transport, Government of Punjab, in an exclusive interview with Priya Yadav, Associate Editor at Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

Punjab has introduced an Electric Vehicle policy. What are the most critical features, and how will they benefit the state?

The state of Punjab has taken a significant stride towards sustainable transportation by introducing its Electric Vehicle (EV) policy. This initiative aligns with the overarching vision of the Government of India, as outlined in the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan, 2020. This comprehensive roadmap underscores the multifaceted benefits of transitioning to electric vehicles, encompassing a spectrum of objectives ranging from improved air quality and diminished noise pollution to bolstered energy security and a notable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

In consonance with this national trajectory, Punjab has announced and implemented the Punjab Electric Vehicle Policy in 2022. While the policy is still in its initial stages of implementation, it holds the promise of fostering substantial transformation in the state’s transportation landscape. By focusing on the core tenets of promoting electric mobility, the policy endeavours to accelerate the adoption of EVs across various sectors.

The most critical features of the Punjab Electric Vehicle Policy encompass a multifaceted approach. It includes incentives such as financial incentives and subsidies to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles by consumers, and the creation of a robust charging infrastructure network to alleviate range anxiety and enhance the practicality of EV ownership. Additionally, the policy envisages the incorporation of electric vehicles in public transportation, aiming to establish a greener and more sustainable mode of commuting.

Furthermore, the policy framework fosters collaboration between public and private stakeholders, which in turn facilitates the development of a conducive ecosystem for EV manufacturing, research, and innovation. By incentivizing investments in EV-related industries, Punjab endeavours to bolster its economic growth and generate employment opportunities.

What are the biggest challenges that the department faces?

The Transportation Department of Punjab plays a crucial role in the execution of policies that are primarily formulated by the central government, a common practice observed in various other states as well. Consequently, the issues and obstacles confronted by Punjab closely mirror those encountered by its counterparts across the nation. At present, a prominent area of focus is the enhancement of initiatives aimed at curbing pollution within Punjab.

In this pursuit, Punjab boasts an excess of 2000 pollution control centers strategically placed throughout the region. However, a pertinent challenge arises from the deficiency in available workforce, a factor that significantly hampers the effective functioning of these centers in fulfilling their designated tasks. This shortage of personnel adversely affects their capacity to carry out the necessary actions and tasks to effectively control and mitigate pollution-related concerns.

What is the state of Vehicle Scrapping Policy in Punjab?

The policy regarding the Disposal of Vehicles is a nationwide effort in India that encompasses the entire country. In the past, a practice was in place where vehicles exceeding 15 years of age were put up for auction. However, a new regulation has been put into effect which stipulates that commercial vehicles older than 15 years are no longer eligible for transfer to a new owner, making it obligatory for these vehicles to be taken out of circulation through scrapping.

For private vehicles, the criteria differ from those applied to commercial ones. This distinction stems from the fact that in practical terms, it is exceedingly challenging to draw direct comparisons between two vehicles that might appear similar based on their age. A crucial consideration here is the actual usage of these vehicles. Take, for example, two vehicles: one has covered a distance of 1000 kilometres over the span of a year, while the other has traversed a much greater distance of 10,000 kilometres during the same timeframe. Clearly, these two vehicles cannot be regarded as equivalent due to the substantial discrepancy in their usage patterns.

Hence, the policy recognises the need to factor in various parameters that go beyond mere age when determining the fate of vehicles, whether they are commercial or private. This approach acknowledges the inherent differences in how vehicles are utilised in real-world scenarios, highlighting the importance of a more nuanced and comprehensive assessment.

What are the digital initiatives that the state government is undertaking and how is it improving the efficiency?

The state government has embarked on various digital initiatives aimed at enhancing the accessibility and efficiency of public services. A significant advancement in this direction is the implementation of the eSarathi portal, which serves as a virtual platform offering a range of services that were previously only accessible through physical visits. For instance, individuals can now conveniently apply for licences and avail other essential services via the online portal, eliminating the need for in-person visits.

One notable outcome of these digital initiatives is the dual benefit they provide. On one hand, they cater to the evolving needs and preferences of the public by enabling them to carry out crucial tasks from the comfort of their own homes. This marks a significant leap in terms of convenience and accessibility, aligning with the fast-paced digital era we are living in.

On the other hand, these digital interventions have proven to be instrumental in addressing a pertinent challenge that the government departments have been grappling with – the scarcity of manpower and resources. By transitioning certain services to the online realm, the burden on physical infrastructure and human resources has been alleviated to a considerable extent. This redirection of efforts has allowed government departments to reallocate their resources more strategically, focusing on areas that necessitate direct human intervention while utilising the digital platform for tasks that can be streamlined through automation.

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