Monday, April 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



CNG can be dangerous

It is unfortunate that Delhi was brought to a stand-still due to the ban on diesel-operated buses imposed by the Supreme Court. It seems that the environmentalists have misguided the Supreme Court on the pollution and safety aspects of compressed natural gas (CNG).

It is wrong to claim that CNG is clean and safe. How can CNG be clean? It is a mixture of gases some of which are toxic. Unlike petrol, which is liquid under ordinary atmospheric pressure, CNG can leak from a defective cylinder and spread in the atmosphere. Unburnt CNG can cause respiratory problems.

It is easy to adulterate CNG with compressed liquified air on a large scale and cheat the consumers without getting caught. CNG bottling plants can easily fill the cylinders with 20 to 40 per cent compressed liquified air. It is difficult to detect such adulteration. Does the Government have any laws to punish persons guilty of adulterating CNG?

CNG cylinders can be potential bombs. Cylinders filled with CNG adulterated with compressed liquified air can explode like bombs when heated slightly.

Instead of insisting on CNG-driven buses, the environmentalists should get orders from the Supreme Court to enforce fuel-saving measures. To tackle the problem of pollution the following measures can reduce the use of petroleum products:


Any two students doing the same course should be allowed to exchange their seats in schools or colleges that are closer to their homes. Such exchange can even be three-way or four-way involving three or four students. Such exchange can be done between students living in the same town or city or even in different towns and cities.

Any two employees doing similar jobs and getting similar wages should also be allowed to exchange their jobs to enable them to work nearer their homes.

Three-seater rickshaws should be allowed to be converted into five or six seaters. The present six seater rickshaws should be allowed to carry eight or nine passengers.

Fuel-efficient vehicles and their parts should be taxed at lower rates to bring down their prices.

Bicycles should be made lightweight, more efficient and low-priced, by reducing taxes, to make more people use them instead of mopeds, scooters etc.


A simple alternative

Air pollution caused by vehicles remains at the ground level and affects the people most. Industrial pollution, because of the high chimneys, goes into the atmosphere at a higher level.

Replacing the diesel-driven buses and trucks with CNG-driven vehicles will reduce the pollution but not eliminate it.

If instead of replacing the diesel-driven buses and trucks with ones driven by CNG, it is made compulsory for these vehicles to fix their exhaust pipes vertically, a little above the top of the vehicle as is done in tractors, pollution at the road level will become negligible. It may even be less than what is caused by CNG-driven vehicles.

The purpose of replacing diesel buses and trucks with the CNG is to provide a less polluted air to the people and not to lower the pollution level of the atmosphere. So if a verticle exhaust is made compulsory, it will serve the purpose without spending all the money on conversion to CNG. The confusion arising from this order will also be avoided.


Cold stores

The Punjab Government has been encouraging entrepreneurs and farmers to install cold stores by giving them subsidy and loans liberally. It has given rise to the mushroom growth of big and small units. The total capacities of these cold stores has exceeded the potatoes stored in summer. This year not more than 25 per cent of the capacity of these units will be utilised. On top of that, the PSEB has enforced a new condition to charge Rs 500 per KW per month on the connected load and not on the actual electricity consumed.

This will cause many small units to close down. This industry is already under a strain because of the stiff competition.

The Government should take a serious view of this situation and ask the PSEB to reverse this policy. They should be charged according to the electricity consumed.

MANMOHAN SINGH, Ferozepur Cantt



New courses

I have read with interest the decision of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to start in our universities B.Sc and M.Sc courses in Astrology. By the same logic, I suggest that the UGC should order the universities to start B.Sc and M.Sc courses also in the following disciplines (the list is alphabetical and no comparative value judgement is implied):

Alchemy: Astral travel; Auras; Automatic writing; Breatharianism (the art of living for thousands of years without food, based on the premise that everybody who eats, dies); Cartomancy (reading of playing cards); Clairvoyance; Creationism; Crystal power; Divining and dowsing (e.g for water, minerals, hidden wealth which we have in plenty; the graduates could find jobs also in the Income Tax Department); Faith healing; Ghosts; Iridology; Kirlian photography; Levitation; Mantic arts; Monsterology (study of monsters such as the Loch Ness monster); Numerology; Palmistry; Poltergy; Psychokinesis and telekinesis (a la Uri Geller); Reincarnation; Reflexology; Seances; Spiritualism (including study of spirits, as distinct from ghosts); Tarot cards; Tantric arts; Tea-leaf reading; Telepathy; Transcendental meditation; UFOs; Wizardry and Witchcraft.

One advantage in starting these courses will be that this new vision of the UGC will acquire international flavour and the RSS, the BJP and the Minister concerned, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, will not be lebelled as parochial. My second suggestion is that the degree to be granted in these areas, including astrology, should be B.A or M.A and not B.Sc or M.Sc as all of these areas stand out in direct and absolute contradiction to science.

My third suggestion — a follow-up of the second — is that, slowly, over the next 10 years or so, our universities should close the departments of Chemistry, Biological sciences, and Astronomy. The departments of Physics may be retained in deference to Dr Murli Manohar Joshi as physics happens to be his subject.


LPG bottling plant

Kotkapura, Asia’s biggest cotton market, was earning Rs 250 lakh as octroi every year from the bulk depots of Hindustan Petroleum, IBP, Indian Oil and other oil companies. Now these depots have been shifted to Bathinda, which has resulted in a big fall in the income of the Kotkapura Municipal Council which finds it difficult even to pay salaries to its staff. All development work has come to a halt.

The government plans to set up two LPG bottling plants at Bathinda and Ludhiana. The plant at Bathinda will not make much difference to the economy of the town which already has a thermal plant, a fertilizer plant and an oil refinery (under construction). If the LPG plant is set up at Kotkapura, it will make the cash-starved municipal council viable. It will also save the government the repeated grants it has to give to the council for its survival.

The 25 acres of land and buildings of the Kotkapura Cooperative Spinning mills at Sandhwan, the home village of former President of India, Giani Zail Singh, which now lies closed, can be utilised for this plant. The retrenched staff of the spinning mill can also be rehabilitated in the LPG bottling plant.



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