When Courts Plan: The Greening of Delhi's Autorickshaws
31 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016
Date Written: August 1, 2016
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
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