Pollution Under Control Certificates (PUCC) is the primary vehicular emissions testing framework in India. It ascertains the fitness of vehicles plying on the streets and ensures their compliance with emission standards to limit vehicular pollution. However, the PUC regime in India is fraught with challenges due to widespread corruption and malpractice by operators at PUC centers. To identify the gaps and drawbacks in the current infrastructure, EPIC India undertook a decoy vehicle study which was conducted across 22 randomly chosen PUC centers in Delhi, utilizing petrol and diesel vehicles as decoys to identify corruption practices, bribe-seeking behavior by operators and deficiencies in adherence to standard operating procedures. Vehicles were assigned to a center as either an “Error” or “Non-Error” vehicle – An error state is when a vehicle cannot undergo a valid PUC test due to a restriction that does not allow two tests within a window of 4 hours and a “non-error” vehicle is defined as the state in which the vehicle can undergo a valid PUC test. The error test allowed for identifying instances of operators engaged in the generation of fraudulent certificates to be captured, while the non-error test allowed us to evaluate deviation in actual testing practices.
The findings of our study suggested significant deviation from SOPs due to limited monitoring at centers and a lack of incentives for PUC operators, as well as large variation in pollution readings for a vehicle across centers and rampant under-reporting of failed PUC tests. Our results suggest significant scope for improving the PUC testing regime through increased automation to reduce the scope for manual intervention by operators and bolstering incentives through mandatory and enforced payments of PUC charges by drivers. This twin approach addresses both supply and demand-side bottlenecks associated with the current emissions testing framework in India.