Friday, May 8, 2009
First, some background. Around 2 months back I was passing through Nehru Place in south Delhi with my friend Sourabh, in his Tata Indica. We were discussing several topics, when our discussion took a turn towards the topic of “Nano” car. I enthusiastically said, “Sourabh, after Nano is launched, every Tom, Dick and Harry will be able to buy a car. So nice, isn’t it?”
“Well, I do not think so dear.” Said Sourabh, while struggling to move forward our car through the heavy traffic that was plaguing the road. “You can see the condition of the traffic, what a mess it has become already. The huge number of cars on the road has made the traffic so slow in all the Indian metro cities. Crossing a half an hour distance now takes almost 1 hour. Now with Nano there will be a huge increase in the number of cars overnight. And you can pretty well understand what type of situation it will usher in”.
Sourabh’s words were ringing in my ears other day while going to my office in Gurgaon. Since I have no direct bus to Gurgaon from Noida (where I stay), therefore while going to office everyday first I have to go to Dhaula Kuan, from where I catch a DTC bus of Dhaula Kuan-Gurgaon route. And everyday what I face, apart from huge crowd (inside the bus) and heat, is extreme jam. The bus takes around 50 minutes to get me at the Udyog Vihar Phase 5 (the stop is “Shankar Chowk”), where my office is located. Whereas, it is actually a distance of just 30 minutes.
But other day it was just an extreme case. We had almost reached the Shankar Chowk stop (i.e. my stop), when suddenly my bus got stuck in a huge jam. And what a jam it was! For 20-25 minutes my bus stood still, without being able to move an inch. Terribly impatient, I was constantly peeping outside through the window. And what could I see? A huge ocean of cars – Santro, Hyundai, Tata Indica, Maruti, Bolero, blah blah blah! And it was at that time when I could fully realize the substance of what Sourabh had said other day. That day I got 15 minutes late in reaching my office, ironically for getting stuck up for 20 minutes virtually at the “doorstop” of the office.
What I strongly feel is that there should be immediately some restrictions on the number of cars on the roads. Till 10-15 years back only a certain section of people could afford to buy cars, thus automatically keeping a control on the number of cars on the roads. But now the situation has changed. The purchasing power of common people has increased a lot. Moreover, now there have been various facilities like Car Loans, etc., which have facilitated the purchasing of cars to great extent. Therefore, at the end of the day, there has been an increase in the number of car buyers, thereby further resulting in an increase in the number of cars on the roads. And the ultimate result is for all of us to see.
So far we have judged the ill effects of the increase in the number of cars precisely in the context of environment, i.e., more cars = more environmental pollution. And that is certainly a very crucial issue. But what I feel to be more alarming is the way the number of cars is affecting the speed of traffic. If it continues, then can you imagine what the situation will be after just 5-6 years? And we must realize that no matter how many flyovers we construct, that can only partially (and not fully) address the problem of increasing number of cars.
So, what I feel is that the government must do something immediately about it. One option can be to ban the use of personal cars in the weekdays. It must be made a rule that people can use only public transport in the weekdays, and can use their personal cars only on Saturdays and Sundays, when in any case the offices are generally closed, and usually people are not in a hurry to go somewhere. Yes, special exemption may be offered to people whose offices are far away from their residences. If a person makes any such application that his office is far away from his home, and he finds it very difficult to reach office in time if he is using public transport, then the government can consider his case, and permit him to use his personal car while going to office in the weekdays. There can be some fixed parameters (in terms of distance, etc.) to consider such cases. But otherwise, the government must be strict about using personal cars in the weekdays.
Of course I am not saying that the suggestion I am making is the only way available to address this problem. It was just a suggestion made by a layman. I know for sure that the experienced government officials can come up with much better plans, more feasible and effective. I am only trying to highlight the seriousness of the problem, and the urgency of doing something to restraint the problem.
Lots of discussions have been made on “population explosion”. It is time we spared some thought for the problem of “automobile explosion”.
Photo Courtesy - borgawker.com