Vehicle Scrappage Policy: all you need to know

The vehicle scrappage policy has been devised to promote sales of new vehicles with improved fuel efficiency and low pollution levels, as well as to slash India’s Rs 10 lakh crore expenditure on crude imports. Around 1 crore aging vehicles are set to be scrapped once the policy is implemented, according to Gadkari. A scrappage scheme encourages motorists to part-exchange their old, polluting car for a new, eco-friendly one, by offering cash towards the new car when trading in the old one.

Policy and pollution due to private vehicles:
The point to note is that private vehicles that are over 20 years old and which the scrappage policy wants to do away with, are not daily drivers and do not come out on the road every day. Thus they are not significant contributors to air pollution. And replacing them with newer less polluting vehicles will not significantly reduce vehicular pollution.

Policy and pollution due to commercial vehicles:
Interestingly, most of the luminaries I spoke to concur that commercial vehicles are the ones that cause the majority of vehicular pollution as they are almost constantly in use. They are also very poorly maintained. Commercial vehicles, apart from a few, are not attractive collectibles and neither is there any emotional connect as they are largely driven and used by employees. Given this, scrapping them when they pass the age of 15 years is justified, and should be mandatory.

Policy and vehicles over 50 years in age:
It is believed the scrappage policy will exempt vintage vehicles that are 50 years and older, which is a very welcome step. But the majority of people I spoke to, also believe that there must be a separate categorization of private vehicles that are between the age of 30 and 49 years, and it is equally important that these are exempt from the scrappage policy. These vehicles are part of India’s industrial and cultural heritage and this was recognized by the Cartier Concourse event that introduced the “Indian Heritage Class.

Policy and vehicles between 30 and 49 years in age:
The larger view is that historic vehicles are not only those over 50 years old, but also the ones between 30 and 49 years in age. So there must be a different categorization or a way to also exempt them from the scrappage policy. Older vehicles are not only retained by classic car enthusiasts. But also by many pensioners and retired people with a lower income who may not be able to afford a new car. Several such people only take their cars out on special occasions or family outings.

Certification of “Vintage Motor Vehicles”:
As per Diljeet Titus, General Secretary HMCI (Heritage Motoring Club of India), “All motor vehicles which are at least 50 years old from the date of their first registration and which are registered as “vintage motor vehicles” under the proposed new registration rules, will not be subject to the scrapping policy. Vehicles will be approved for such registration after evaluation by a three person committee comprising the Transport Secretary/ Commissioner, a representative of an automobile association and an expert, if needed. According to T. R. Raghunandan, Former IAS officer and life member of the KVCCC (Karnataka Vintage and Classic Car Club), “A committee will create an unnecessary bureaucracy, slow down the certification process and may result in conflict of interest of the invited expert, who may be a collector. As the documents for the vehicle speak for themselves, self-certification of a vintage car would suffice.

Policy and disincentive costs:
Everyone is happy the scrappage policy is voluntary and not mandatory. But the additional cost of the green tax, renewal of registration and clearing the automated fitness test, is a cause of concern for those who own cars that are over 20 years old. While it is true that by passing the fitness test and paying the heavy additional (disincentive) taxes and fees you could continue to use your vehicle, there is a justified view that this may be expensive and unaffordable for many owners. So there should be a way to retain your vehicle without paying these additional charges and classic car owners are more than happy to comply with any laws that discourage everyday use of their vehicles, as long as they are permitted to bring them onto public roads for events, exhibitions, and on certain special occasions or festivals.

Let natural market forces decide on scrappage:
A couple of the eminent personalities that I spoke to, believe natural market forces should decide which vehicle gets scrapped, and which one is saved. As cars get older, their maintenance costs increase and sourcing of spare parts becomes difficult. Many times the cost of keeping the car running is way higher than its market value, and in such cases many owners simply abandon them. Just look around and you will find many such vehicles deserted on our streets. In my view the scrappage policy should have provisions that make it much easier for the authorities to pick up such vehicles and scrap them. This will also help reduce some congestion on our roads, especially in our crowded metros.

The scrappage policy must cater for required infrastructure:
In October 2019, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), released draft guidelines for setting up authorised vehicle scrappage facilities. But from what I know, we still only have a couple of fully organized and approved vehicle scrapyards, and a lot of work remains to be done. If executed and managed properly in an eco-friendly manner, there is huge potential for recycling materials used in the manufacture of vehicles. Recycling of steel and other metals will obviously be beneficial from a cost and environment point of view, but also things like rubber, plastic, vinyl, glass, and what have you, can all either be recycled or disposed in an environment friendly manner. Parts that are in good shape like engine and gearbox assemblies, body panels, lights, windscreens, etc., can all be dismantled and stored and cataloged in a way, where they can be reused by other vehicle owners, who may not want to spend a higher amount on brand new parts.

Refurbishing of old vehicles can be a small scale cottage industry:
While the government may want to take older vehicles off our roads, it should not shut its eyes to the prospects of reconditioning and completely overhauling old vehicles. We are fortunate to have highly skilled mechanics, denters and painters, welders, electricians, fabricators, and so on, spread all across our country. Many of them now struggle to make a living because of newer vehicles that require less maintenance and the fact that normally such modern vehicles only go to company authorized service stations or workshops. Given this, by creating a viable old vehicle reconditioning industry with factories where vehicles are completely stripped and rebuilt from ground up, can gainfully employ all these people.

Incentive for scrappage:
For long the auto industry in India has been asking for a reduction in GST and some other levies. The manufacturers have been facing difficulties for a couple of years now and are in need of a booster shot. And the scrappage policy provides the government a perfect opportunity to respond positively to the demands of the industry. While it’s believed the government will give incentives for scrapping old vehicles and buying new ones in the form of reduced taxes and maybe lower registration and road tax charges, I personally think it should generally decrease the GST on vehicles to even benefit buyers who are not scrapping any old vehicle.

Improving public transport and EV charging facilities:
There is a justified opinion based on past experiences, that banning or scrappage of 20 year old private vehicles will not result in any substantial reduction of air pollution. And replacing old private vehicles with new ones will also not make a significant difference to our AQI. The solution lies in creating better and more eco-friendly public transport. For starters all public transport buses should become EVs (electric vehicles). These vehicles are constantly out on our roads and also have depots where a proper fast charging infrastructure can be easily created. At the same time, the government must also focus on improving the charging opportunities for private EV owners. Unless they can charge their vehicles where they normally park, we will not see widespread use of EVs.