When Courts Plan: The Greening of Delhi's Autorickshaws

31 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016

See all articles by Atul Pokharel

Atul Pokharel

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs; New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Date Written: August 1, 2016

Abstract

Implementing municipal-scale policies is challenging in megacities. Despite this, between 1986 and 2006, Delhi converted its entire public transportation network of nearly 100,000 vehicles to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) instead of diesel and petrol. The use of CNG is widely assumed to have been ordered by the Supreme Court of India. But this overlooks how autorickshaws, privately owned and making up three-fourths of these vehicles, came to use CNG even though the court did not order it. Using two new sources of data, I show that the conversion of autos was jointly led by the largest private manufacturer together with the city government. The court facilitated coordination between several other actors, allowed them to experiment, and monitored progress over two decades leading up to the auto conversion. After capping the total number of autos, it ultimately refrained from passing judgment on two consequential aspects of greening them: vehicle ownership and fuel type. As a result, auto owners were buffeted by decades of incremental policy experimentation. Eventually, these experiments reconfigured auto ownership as some sold their operating permits to become renters, while state institutions remained indifferent to this shadow conversion underfoot.

Keywords: megacities, rickshaw, autorickshaw, Delhi, India

Suggested Citation

Pokharel, Atul, When Courts Plan: The Greening of Delhi's Autorickshaws (August 1, 2016). Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2016-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2817115 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2817115

Atul Pokharel (Contact Author)

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs ( email )

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

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