Special Report: Car Menace In India
Intro: You can have a city that is friendly to cars or friendly to people.You cannot have both'
I read with trepidation a report about India’s domestic car industry gaining its position as one of the fastest growing car markets. The report looked ominous in the aftermath of the recent death of Delhi Police traffic constable Mana Ram, who was run over by a car after a heated argument with the driver while on duty in Delhi on June 16 night and that of late Shri Gopinath Munde, a popular backward class leader from Maharashtra, who on his way to Indira Gandhi Airport in his car was hit by another vehicle at the Prithviraj Road-Tughlak Road roundabout in the heart of the national capital on June 3.
Hardly a day passes when headlines do not burn with the reports of fatal or near fatal road accidents and violent road rage cases. 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 per cent growth in car production. 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. While the neo-rich car-crazy urban elite is delighted in acquiring newer to newest models whenever launched, the middle class goes for them out of the compulsions that urbanisation imposes on them. 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. And it should come as no shocker if more people get killed in fatal accidents.
|The Global status report on road safety 2013 estimates that more than231 000 people are killed in road traffic crashes in India every year. Approximately half of all deaths on the country's roads are among vulnerable road users – motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists.|
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.”
Loss of lives & man-hours on Indian roads
Thanks to the 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-wrecking 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!
|According to a NDTV survey, five small cars Tata Nano, Maruti Suzuki Alto 800, Hyundai i10, Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo failed the crash tests performed by London car-safety watchdog Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme). One crash test was performed at 56 kmph, the other at 64 kmph and all five cars failed the test, landing a zero on a scale of 1-5.|
Stressed Out Citizenry
A 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 causing several stress-induced terminal diseases such as heart-attack, brain hemorrhage, depression etc. More than anything else, the stress and tension are mainly caused by commuting long distances to and fro for 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. 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 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 like Mumbai, Kolkata and Madras. Thanks to the burgeoning car and human population, abnormally high level of atmospheric pollution, and unbridled urbanisation, Delhi has come to be regarded as the most dangerous place to live in.
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. 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.
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.
Addressing perils of green-house emissions
Our country is the world’s fifth largest Greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for about 7.6 % 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.
Sad and lamentable— the car population is regarded as the barometer of economic growth and prosperity. Indeed it is a shame that every politician and political party swears by this development that does not augur well for the country.