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‘We must put our best foot forward on BS-VI’

Murali Gopalan | Updated on March 10, 2018

Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto

Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj says there are lessons to be learnt for the auto industry from the recent Supreme Court judgment

It is barely 10 days into the new Bharat Stage IV emissions regime and another tug-of-war seems imminent between two opposing factions.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority, or EPCA, recently told the Supreme Court that registration of BS IV vehicles should stop in April 2020 when the new era of BS-VI norms kicks in.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the apex body of the industry, has hinted that this is next to impossible. It is scheduled to be ready with its side of the argument in the coming weeks.

Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director of Bajaj Auto, believes the auto industry has not learnt its lessons from the recent Supreme Court judgment on BS IV. “The Court has already put us in our place and yet we are kicking and screaming. I am the first to admit that the BS-VI deadline is a tall ask but isn’t it better at this juncture for SIAM to call all its members together and work out the issue?” wonders the Managing Director of Bajaj Auto.

In his view, the more prudent approach would be for SIAM to involve EPCA and tell them that while the transition is going to be challenging, the auto industry will still do its best to make this a reality. “After all, this has not happened anywhere in the world and we need to make known that the task ahead is going to be very tough,” says Bajaj.

Adopt positive approach

From his point of view, it makes more sense to adopt a positive approach instead of creating a song and dance on the difficulties of meeting an earlier deadline. Eventually, even if the Apex Court favours registration as the norm for BS-VI (as in the case of BS IV), it just means getting ready three months ahead of the scheduled rollout date of April 2020.

“At this point in time, as a potential superpower in the auto space, let us put our best foot forward and show the world that India can try and achieve the impossible. After all, multinationals should not have an issue as also Indian companies like Bajaj Auto, which are large exporters,” says its MD.

Bajaj says that it is important for SIAM at this point in time to take a far more proactive role. He also makes no bones about the fact that the apex body did not quite cover itself in glory during the recent emissions drama. “I am not in agreement with the role of SIAM on the recent BS IV issue,” says Bajaj. “When EPCA had suggested in its earlier meetings that April 1 should be the registration date, SIAM could have at least asked for a little time and exhorted members to cut back on production of BS III.”

On the other hand, it “stuck to its stand of the date of manufacture” while some automakers just continued to produce more more and more BS III vehicles. Small wonder then that stocks were so high towards end-March and had to be liquidated at substantial discounts following the SC judgment.

Double standards

Bajaj is also irked at what he believes are the inherent double standards of those who just pumped stocks into the system knowing very well that they stood to gain from selling less expensive BS III products.

“Had the entire exercise of changing over to BS IV involved a cost reduction, are you telling me that companies would not have stepped on the gas in adhering to the deadline and even beating it? They would have pulled off the task yesterday instead of dragging their feet as they did,” he says.

On the other hand, reckons Bajaj, had SIAM just asked for a little more time instead of sticking to its stand on the manufacturing date as a reference point, such a situation would not have come to pass.

Equally, he argues, the assumption that EPCA’s jurisdiction does not go beyond the NCR is patently wrong. “How does it matter where a truck is registered when it can end up travelling across the country and fouling up the air,” he says. “This is where we have got it completely wrong.”

It is also Bajaj’s contention that the Government privately knows that the industry has not been fair in keeping its end of the bargain during the entire BS IV transition.

People at the top are only too aware that some manufacturers tried to take advantage of the situation and may drag their feet during the more challenging move to BS-VI.

Clean air issues

On the subject of clean air, Bajaj cites the instance of the Qute quadricycle ,which has still not debuted in India even while it has been shipped out to a host of other countries, including in Europe. It is here that the apex body of the auto industry could have done so much more.

“From my point of view, SIAM has been a letdown on the quadricycle, which was a cleaner alternative being scuttled by some vested interests in the industry,” says Bajaj. “It just sat and watched another member sink without lending a helping hand. Yet, when many other companies were guilty of polluting the air, it went along with their argument on BS IV.”

Following the Supreme Court order, there have been a whole lot of numbers being tossed around on losses incurred because of the hit taken on discounting BS III vehicles. Bajaj pooh-poohs these claims and says he would like to see what actually unravels when these companies post their Q1 results in the next couple of months.

“I am ready to wager that figures cited to the SC are grossly inflated and those manufacturers should be taken to task for attempting to scare the Court,” he says. “All of us suffered because of discounts but to quote figures like thousands of crores of rupees is totally over the top.”

Bajaj reiterates that for his company, business interests come second to health. “It just beats me that other manufacturers are so disdainful about the issue especially when their friends and children are breathing the same air,” he says. “To them, making money appears to be more important than ensuring health of our citizens.”

Published on April 13, 2017

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