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New Delhi: As the automobile industry lobbies hard against a proposal of Niti Aayog and Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, to impose a blanket ban on petrol, diesel fuelled two- and three-wheelers by 2023 and 2025, respectively, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has clarified that the Centre was yet to set a deadline for such a move.

“Where is the deadline? There is no deadline. There can be a lot of discussion, dialogue. But it’s not government’s policy. Niti Aayog can generate a lot of discussions which is good for the narrative. That’s where it is," said Sitharaman in an interview to Indian Express on Monday.

Automobile manufacturers, especially two- and three-wheeler makers, have been up in arms about the possible threat to their investments if a ban on traditional vehicles is imposed by the Centre. Automakers are of the opinion that significant investment has been made in upgrading to Bharat Stage 6 emission norms in a period of three years from Bharat Stage 4 and a deadline to shift to electric vehicles will put them in the red.

The automobile sector has been reeling under the impact of poor sales since September, as financial institutions like banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFC) have tightened credit norms in the aftermath of the bankruptcy of IL&FS and liquidity crunch in the finance sector.

“My answer, particularly on the vehicles issue, buyers are not picking up vehicles…is one, as much as I hear that, I also hear reasons for it. Some who speak to me do say that the reason for buyers not rushing to get vehicles now is also this transition from Bharat Stage IV to Stage VI, directly leapfrogging Stage V. Now buyers are probably in anticipation that industry themselves would give something even as the deadline of January 2020 kicks in. So the decision is getting delayed or deferred," said Sitharaman in the interview.

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