Intro: Restoring social, cultural harmony and developing alternate source of energy in Indian villages can increase the productivity hours of people. This is high time for the nation to save precious fuel to pave the path for robust economic growth.
The annual oil import bill of India is nearly 160 billion dollars and the oil subsidy bill has crossed Rs 1, 50,000 crore in 2013-14. It is estimated that India's crude oil demand will touch 186.2 million metric tonnes in 2016-17 and would create serious economic disabilities. So a cut in fossil fuel use will reduce India’s current account deficit gap, increase the forex reserve, reduce pollution, narrow down the fiscal deficit and tame inflation.
There are a few simple ways to save fossil fuel. A battery operated rickshaw can carry six passengers without sound and smoke. These rickshaws can be introduced in small urban centers. Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited (BHEL), Bhopal produces 32 seated battery operated mini buses which can cover short distances. Infact, the greatest fossil fuel saver is the foot path. People can happily walk down two to five kilometer to reach their workplaces. A clean and tree covered foot path is not only a health booster but adds beauty and value to urban centers. Unfortunately, hundreds of kilometers of foot paths along with tree line have given way to road widening, construction of metro railways and other infrastructures across the country in the past two decades. More than 80 per cent of foot path in Hyderabad and Pune cities have disappeared along with its tree line. Similar is the situation in most of the urban centers. Destruction of footpath is the main reason for the growing number of accidents in Hyderabad city. Every day five to six people die in road accident in Hyderabad. To avoid this, all Indian cities should be graded on the basis of the quality of civic amenities. And, tree covered foot paths should be the integral part of urban planning.
Similarly, cycle tracks can drastically reduce fossil fuel use. Majority workforce in urban centers commute an average 15 kilometers per day to reach their workplaces. They can easily cover the distance by cycles. Unfortunately, the Indian cities have become such terrible mess that it has become risky to travel by cycle. To overcome this, each urban center should have compulsory cycle track connecting all corners of the city.
West and European nations have taken a lead in developing cycle track. The greatest Carbon-Dioxide (CO2) fighter, Denmark has set an example for others. The European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) is constructing a cycling route covering 70, 000 kilometer which will connect all European nations by 2020. Even the Asian nations are not far behind — Japan has constructed an attractive cycling route “Japan Cycling Route Network” covering 1930 kilometer connecting Fukuoka and Tokyo. The route covered with trees, food joints and small parks has become a tourist attraction. The developed and developing nations in the West and Europe are also out to make beautiful cycle tracks to save fuel consumption.
In Italy, the number of bicycles sold was more than the number of cars sold in 2012. The Italians have acquired 1.61 million bicycles in 2012 and the public interest to use bicycles is growing fast in Italy. Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome cycles his way to reach his meeting venues and sets example for common man.
Similarly, India with a huge population of 121 crore plus can save large quantity of fossil fuel. Cities like Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh and Bhopal have developed cycle tracks. Orissa's Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik can also work to develop an attractive cycle track connecting Bhubaneswar, Khurda, Puri and Cuttack.
The rag tag town bus services in urban centers should be improved to help commuters. There is a need for state of the art public transport system which does not mean the introduction of expensive metro trains, sky walk or mono rail, but to correct the defects in the existing public transport system— There are town busses but they don't run in time; in many places they are not well maintained and do not connect to many places; then there are trade union problems and corruption in most of the transport departments across the country. A reliable public transport system therefore can play a big role in reducing fossil fuel to a great extent.
In fact, the solution for our fuel deficit lies in villages. It is impossible to shift 60 per cent villagers to the urban centers. And, 40 per cent urban population which is more than 48 crore is too huge a work force for industry, manufacturing and services sector to grow. So, if Indian villages are provided amenities, it could let people love their villages again.
Any unscientific target for development always leads to village mess and leakage of funds. It is a sheer waste to open savings bank accounts for all without creating scope for economic activities. Healthy economic activities happen in an environment of
good governance, dedicated realty check and a state of the art monitoring mechanism.
Hence there is a need to restore the bio diversity, repair the rivers, moisturise top soil, refill water bodies and depoliticise the village level institutions. We can also think of saving fuel to continue with subsidy as long as we become self-sufficient in producing alternate source of energy.
Sudhansu R Das (The writer is a freelance journalist from Hyderabad)