TACKLING CAR MENACE IN INDIA
CAR MENACE IN INDIA
TACKLING CAR MENACE IN INDIATACKLING CAR MENACE IN INDIA
A HARD LOOK AT CAR MENACE IN INDIA
I read with lots of trepidation the report about India’s domestic car industry gaining its position as one of the fastest growing car markets. This certainly does not augur well for an average Delhiite like me who with still more trepidation opens his daily. Hardly a day passes when its headlines do not burn with the reports of fatal and/or near fatal road accidents, violent road rage cases. And sure enough, there are cars and car-drivers involved in most, if not all, of them. A shiver goes down my spine, when I learn that the foreign automobile manufacturers have already started eyeing the Indian market to cater to the expected 12.5% growth in car production this year. The past decade has been witness to the Desi manufacturers vying with their foreign counterparts in chocking the Indian roads with more and more cars on them. While the neo-rich car-crazy urban elite delighted in acquiring newer to newest models whenever launched, the middle class went in for them out of the compulsions of unplanned and wild urbanization imposed on it. If this rat-race for more cars is not stopped forthwith, the already chocked Delhi roads, with bumper-to-bumper vehicular traffic on them, will be left with no room for the pedestrians to move about. More will get killed in the bloody fatal accidents. Enrique Penalosa, a former mayor of Bogota, has aptly observed: “You can have a city that is friendly to cars or friendly to people. You cannot have both”. However the fact remains that the grotesque, unplanned and wild urbanization is the mother of this modern-day Frankenstein which sure is destroying the quality of life of an average Delhiite or for that matter life of an average Indian. It so seems that this poorly planned Metro is just waiting for a major disaster to happen.
LOSS OF LIVES & MAN-HOURS ON INDIAN ROADS
Thanks to the fatal and near-fatal accidents on Indian roads, which average to one in every three minutes, the human life has been reduced to the cheapest commodity in this blessed country. Besides, has anybody ever cared to guesstimate, the number of man-hours that are lost in hours-long, nerve-wracking traffic jams at thousands of chock points on Indian roads happening many times in a day, and sometimes in nights as well - a colossus loss of precious time and man-power!, not to speak of the ever-rising stress level of those involved getting upped a several notches! In 90% cases of accidents and massive, nerve-wracking traffic jams, the culprit happens to be ‘the car’. And then there is this perennial problem of space for parking the vehicle particularly in the community residential blocks.
STRESSED OUT CITIZENRY
A recent survey reveals that the average life span of a Mumbaikar is seven years shorter than that of the rest of his countrymen, and the culprit is stressful life of the city which is the causative factor responsible for several stress-induced terminal diseases such as heart-attack, brain hemorrhage, depression etc. to which a Mumbaikar is exposed. More than anything else, the stress and tension are caused due to job-related worries, stressful busy working life with no time left for entertainment, unhealthy 24X7 work routine which involves commuting or negotiating long distances to and fro work on severely congested roads crowded with chaotic vehicular traffic, atmospheric pollution, and so forth.
A similar study for Delhi could possibly be far more revealing. What with three times as many cars and automobiles, the city’s score in terms of human toll due to such diseases and otherwise in road-accidents and road-rage cases, should be much higher than Mumbai. Another study of this kind conducted last year suggests that thanks to the extremely stressful and tension filled life an average Delhiite becomes impotent before he attains the age of 40 years. This dubious distinction is shared, with somewhat little variation, by other metropolises- Mumbai, Kolkata and Madras- as well where the age-range of an average young men getting into the DUBIOUS class is between 40 to 50 years. It is the safe bet that astronomical increase in the car-population is the main villain of the piece- the single greatest contributor to the hellish life a common Delhiite has to lead. Thanks to the burgeoning car and human population, abnormally high level of atmospheric pollution, and unbridled urbanization, Delhi has come to be regarded as the most dangerous place to live in. Add to it the city’s vulnerability to terror-attacks and you have a complete picture of the hell, Delhi has since become. Not long ago, the city was regarded as a big village and the life was hassle-free, quite tranquil and peaceful- the people going about and to work on bicycles. The grotesque development has left the city heavily scarred, ugly and most unlivable. The political compulsions make it possible for the wily politicians to welcome hoards of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh with offers of valid ration-cards to validate their citizenship of the country, and at the same time denounce and castigate the migrants from the neighbouring Indian states who come to the city in search of a decent livelihood.
HYDRA MANY-HEADED EVIL
The burgeoning car population is a Hydra of Greek mythology with many heads (read problems). Too obvious is the menace of Greenhouse Gas Emissions that mainly grows out of it. Severely limited parking space, which is getting increasingly shrunk by the day and is sure going to cause nightmares to the harried citizens, is another such. The neighbours fight for limited parking space within block areas in residential colonies. Parks within them need to be reconverted into parking ground to meet the hugely increased demand for the parking space. Add to it the severely congested roads used by incessantly tensed drivers with frayed tempers, shouting and fighting all through the way to their destination and you get the big picture. The family would be thanking God for his small mercies, if their near and dear ones drive back home in one piece, even after being involved in an ugly incidence of road rage, accident and/ or a bloody brawl for the road-space- that now routinely happen on Delhi roads. One wonders, why the ever-rising graph of incidences of violent road-rage and fatal or near-fatal road- accidents does not sound wake-up call for the policy-planners and those in authority.
The dictates of the emerging situation are loud and clear: Besides flyovers and roads, we need to construct many more multi-level parking facilities, and parking lots not only in and around office-complexes, but also within residential colonies and blocks. It may entail converting many a city parks into parking-lots on priority.
Projects aimed at developing and putting in place quick and efficient Rapid Mass Transport Systems (RMTS) such as Metro trains in all the big cities should also be taken up on priority.
More importantly, we must immediately reverse our policy of automobile production and import otherwise the ugly phenomenon of bumper to bumper driven cars in a lengthy beetle-like formation crawling their way on the thickly congested city roads, all the time blenching volumes of carbon-dioxide and other poisonous gases in the atmosphere, honking and competing for every inch of the road space, will soon become an unalterable part of the busy city life. The need for a strong government policy which works towards completely banning the automobile production and import cannot be over-emphasized as miles- long traffic-jams and snarl-ups lasting for hours on end, several times a day, almost at every next turn of a road, are right now a common sight in almost all the metropolises.
DECONGESTING DELHI-THE NEED OF THE HOUR
While it stands to reason that we must first kill ‘the Mother’, and then take on the ‘Monster’, the big question is: ‘How to decongest Delhi?’ By shifting all the big industries and industrial houses and all the subordinate offices of the Central Government to faraway places? The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes, by all means.’ All means for this worthy cause are justified. Common citizenry will have to pay the price for the sins of omission and commissions committed by its political masters or suffer the malady in silence for ever. There is no escaping from it. Even otherwise, for example, what the offices of Coast Guards, Accountants General and various R&D Institutes etc. etc. are doing here in Delhi which they cannot do sitting in Port Blair or for that matter in any other little-known remote town far away from Delhi.? Has not the concept of developing satellite towns already proved counterproductive?
IMMEDIATE NEXT STEP
While the message, ‘Down with Development’ should be loud and clear, we have been rooting for monstrous urbanization ever since Independence, and dishing it out as ‘Development’ for the consumption of common citizenry. A thickly populated, ill-planned Metro like Delhi needs to be decongested by all means, and for that a total ban on the production and import of cars, in particular, comes close next in priority. ”Back to bicycle” should now be the motto of all Indian city dwellers. The governments should cater to the safety of the people, and not ‘the greed of car-lobbyists’.
ADDRESSING PERILS OF GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS
Our country is the world’s fifth largest Greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for about 7.6 percent of total global emissions. America has decided to take tough measures to tackle vehicular emissions. Those when implemented would reduce polluting emissions from vehicles by more than 1/3rd. In our country the technology is not so advanced. To cope with the twin problems of grossly inadequate infra-structure and alarmingly spiraling pollution and to ensure effective check on the vehicular greenhouse gas emission we may have to put a cap on the production of automobiles. Coming 31st March is this year’s Earth Day. Let us show some action on the car-front instead of symbolic observation of the Day.
Sad and lamentable; the car-population is regarded as barometer of economic growth and prosperity and cunningly used as a veneer to cover the underbelly of India with its teeming millions living below the poverty line, most of them do not know whence their next meal will come from. It is a shame that they call this thing- “development” and every politician and political party swears by it. This does not augur well for the country.
It is high-time that we took unpalatable decisions, curtailed the car production substantially and put a cap on it which should last till we have sufficiently strengthened our infra-structure to accommodate additional numbers. We should immediately abandon the irrational policy of putting the cart before the horse and must first develop the appropriate infra-structure, put in place a giant RAPID MASS TRANSPORT SYSTEM and then only go in for the production of the automobiles. Till then the car production and import should be totally banned. Concerns of the green brigade should also not be pooh-poohed. Instead, they must be taken seriously and addressed effectively. The gullible common man should not be taken for a ride by tom-toming increased car-production as a symbol of “development and growing economy.” It in fact is inviting disaster. The State may have its compulsions for bowing before the very strong and powerful ‘car lobby’ but why make it the people’s headache by resorting to unwieldy and grotesque urbanization? Already we have earned the dubious tag of "Bad Boy of Climate Change Talks". Please refrain from making it all hell for the common man in India.