Here’s why Ashok Leyland’s Vinod Dasari felt like the bell in Jehangir’s court

In his keynote address at the 57th SIAM annual convention Vinod Dasari, Managing Director of Ashok Leyland blamed the lackadaisical approach of the government in handling the woes of automotive sector.

The outgoing president of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) while stressing on the point that the automotive industry is held ‘responsible for all problems’, said there needs to be clarity over the roadmap for the automobile industry that would help in sound planning for the future.

“Two years ago when I was made the president of SIAM someone told me that I am the Jehangir of the auto industry. I did not know what that meant till the time I read on Jehangir. Jehangir had a bell outside the court and anyone who had complaint can ring the bell. I realized later that I was not Jehangir but I was the bell. Jo ata baja ke chala jata”, said Dasari.

The industry was challenged by not just policy changes initiated by the government but by the Supreme Court, too, which impacted the production and sales of automobiles. The apex court decided to ban sale of BS-3 trucks after March 31, 2017 thereby rendering more than 25,000 heavy and medium trucks useless. Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, VE Commercial Vehicles were stuck with huge unsold stock of trucks and buses.

“I find it amusing that a speed limiter is required for old trucks. These old trucks are not even capable of achieving speeds for which we are limiting the speeds to. Then, we had the sudden GST rates on ambulances which almost stopped the sale of it. When it was decided to jump from BS-4 to BS-6 in just three years when the whole world has taken 8-10 years. We did it because it was in the nation’s best interest. Then, we are required to suddenly follow the European bus code when we have not even implemented the Indian bus code yet. The other day we found the power ministry regulating the fuel efficiency norms in heavy duty vehicles. The heavy duty vehicles run and compete only on fuel efficiency. What was the reason to regulating that?”, added Dasari.

Dasari also came down heavily on the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which initiated the argument to ban the BS-3 vehicles owing to their polluting nature. BS-4 was implemented throughout the country from April 1, 2017.

“The other time we had the SC deciding that suddenly all BS-3 vehicles cannot be sold causing thousands of crores of loss to the industry. And sometimes we have quasi-judicial authorities (NGT) writing directly to transport authorities to ban registration of certain vehicles”, added Dasari.

Several manufacturers who despite being a part of SIAM blamed the apex lobby body for its inefficiency in effectively challenging the changes made to the policies. Dasari completes his two years in the SIAM office today and will retire. An election will be held later today to elect the new president.

The automotive body employs more than 30 million and contributes to 49 percent of the manufacturing industry. About 7.5 percent of the GDP is generated by the automotive industry, as per figures revealed by NITI Aayog.