A STATE regulator swings belatedly into action to try and protect the public’s safety; the intended target, a well-organised and politically powerful special interest, pushes back; a few headlines are generated and slowly, after a while, the matter slips towards an inconclusive end. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority’s attempt to prevent CNG stations from servicing public passenger vehicles that have CNG kits installed inside the passenger compartment of the vehicles is facing stiff resistance from the CNG association and the usual problems of enforcement of state directives has reared its head. Laudable as the Ogra initiative appears and typically recalcitrant as the CNG association’s response has been, as usual the broader questions have been lost in the back-and-forth.
Most obviously, should Ogra be the body leading the charge against death traps on wheels or is this a matter for multiple agencies and government departments to pursue and coordinate action over? Ogra itself appears to understand the scale of the task in its letter addressed to the provincial chief secretaries and to police chiefs — without the help of the administrative and law-enforcement arms of the state, the ban will be largely ineffective. The gas regulator simply does not have the resources to check all CNG-powered public transport or to ensure CNG filling stations do not flout the ban. More importantly, however, has Ogra or any other regulator or administrative authority made any attempt to truly and scientifically understand the threats that CNG kits in vehicles pose and how to best mitigate them in a cost-efficient and urgent manner? The complex, time-consuming task itself suggests the answer: no. Safety measures that are truly effective and life-saving need to be well thought out and designed. Finally, the CNG lobby needs to be reined in, on this and many other matters.