Different models of cars by different companies have been, in the past decades, introduced and show-cased but never before has there been so much hullabaloo as when Ratan Tata unveiled the company'slatest production, the Nano, small in size and capable of running 20 kms to a liter of petrol. Priced at just Rs 1 lakh it constitutes the dream of the middle class and the hope of the lesser privileged. It may be remembered that way back in the early fifties Maruti dreamt of producing a car for sale at Rs 5,000! It didn'twork. At that time even Rs 10,000 a car seemed a lot of money.
Presently, a car selling at Rs 1 lakh is a total sell-out and it has invited several editorials. ?A new wave of social and economic change? is predicted by The Times of India (January 12). And that is absolutely true. One can be sure that Ratan Tata was fully aware of the qualitative change that he will be introducing in Indian society. This is not just what The Times of India has been pleased to call ?a paradigm shift in use of technology?. That it certainly is. But just consider this: Such will be the demand for a car costing not more than Rs 1.25 lakh (with tax) that there will be a few lakh customers just in India. This is what the great Indian middle class has been waiting for. Consider what it will do not just in raising living standards but in raising social standards. How it will affect caste relations, inter-caste relations and social standing! And how many million cars India can sell to countries abroad, especially developing countries, let alone highly developed countries like the United States, Britain, German, France, even Russia and China. Think of how many new jobs will be created. And what deep respect Indian engineers will command. Model T which was launched by Henry Ford in the United States is credited as the car that put America on wheels. Model T transformed America. As The Times noted, ?Model T transformed America and the automobile boom it triggered led to building miles of new roads and radically altered the economy?. In India it surely will radically alter society as well.
The Indian Express (January 12) noted that last year a million cars were sold in India and two-wheeler sales were another seven odd million. Now, thanks to Ratan Tata ?every can company in the world has been jerked awake?. ?Think of the coming quantum leaps in demand for roads? the paper pointed out. And, it added, ?handled well, it could transform India?. The Hindu (January 11) said: ?Between the dream and reality was the challenge of putting on sale a car for a price no manufacturer in India or abroad was willing to countenance. So the visionary Mr Tata and his flagship company, Tata Motors, deserve great credit?. ?India?, said the paper, ?is a natural home for frugal engineering?. The west would naturally be jealous of India. But Ratan Tata'sNano is another face of India shining.
Deccan Herald said that the new small car ?has not only become darling of the people at large, it seems to have touched the hearts of several Chief Executive Officers of leading Corporate houses.? ASSOCHAM Secretary General was quoted as saying that thanks to Nano, ?from financing to marketing, the scenario will undergo changes?. But not everybody seems happy. The Free Press Journal (December 31, 2007) ran an article critical of the entire project. It said: ?The Tata small car scheduled to roll on to the roads in Bangalore in September 2008 will kill the city slowly. The sheer number of vehicles that would hit the roads would choke the city. Rather than giving up their bikes for a car, two-wheeler owners in metros would opt for both a cheap car and a two-wheeler?.
The article by one R. Shankar wrote that there were several ways out of what could turn out to be a grim situation. And he listed them as follows: One, make Tata and other manufacturers of cheap cars also contribute towards making better roads. Two, tax the vehicle heavily at the manufacturing stage itself and use the money for building and maintaining infrastructure. Three, ban vehicles that are more than 10 years old in Metros and cities like Bangalore. Four, make public transport system more efficient and attractive for office goers and five, create more dedicated bus lanes and thereby change mobility. The Deccan Herald itself made two significant points in its editorial. Firstly it said that the Nano Project is expected to create nearly 1,500 jobs, directly and indirectly. Secondly it said that ?by making Nano comply with the most contemporary emission norms, the Tatas have silenced environmentalists who feared that the car will create a major pollution problem.? That is an under-statement. The employment potential is much higher, considering the number of new sales people and engine repairers who will enter the scene. But above all, what Ratan Tata and his company have done is to raise the stature of India as innovative and creative in the transport world far ahead of any other nations. And that is something to savour.
Incidentally there is almost universal agreement in the media over the behaviour of Australian cricketers at the second Test match at Sydney. And in this regard the editorial in The Hitavada is eminently worth quoting considering that it reflects the views of practically every Indian citizen. Said the paper: ?The second test in Sydney will go down in modern cricket'shistory as the darkest chapter where the Australian cricketers showed their abominable character? which had touched a new low? It is not just India, most other cricket playing countries have had the bitter taste of Australian cricket team'slousy behaviour? however, neither the Australian Cricket Board nor the International Cricket Council (ICC) have shown the guts to discipline the errant Australian cricketers. What is worse is that the officials, who are supposed to conduct the game in a fair manner, are mostly seen as partisan? In keeping with the sentiments of the aggrieved cricketers and if the ICC refuses to accede to BCCI'srequest?for rescinding the ban on Harbhajan Singh, the BCCI would be justified in pulling the team out from the rest of the tour, because national honour is greater than cricket.? One doesn'twant to make any comment on the behaviour of the Australian cricketers but it is obvious that they don'tknow what class behaviour is. It betrays their background. Cricket is a Gentleman'sGame, not of street rowdies whose sole aim is to win a match and not play the game.