Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is India ready for Aam Aadmi's car

Mr. Ratan Tata has promised to deliver the common man's car at a price tag of Rs. 1 lac soon. The announcement and the display at "Auto Expo 08" has certainly had its impact even though there is a wait of 6 months for the roll out of "NANO". Two-wheeler manufacturers are expected to lower the prices in a nation where the daily retail business in the villages and small towns runs on two-wheelers. Other players in the Four-wheeler segment are plotting to come up with their low budget cars as well.

A small child on the fuel tank and the second child between the father and the mother riding the motorbike is a common sight in any Indian city. Mr. Tata's promise provides these families with an opportunity to own their new car. But what do we really achieve? Is India ready to absorb the explosive growth in the increase in the number of vehicles on our roads? Will we be able to ensure a healthy environment for our children if not concerned for ourselves? Is this the only priority that we have? Will our roads be safer with more vehicles with the same kind of infrastructure?

The path of economic development that India is revving upon is flawed and we have lost track of our priorities. The single-most evidence for the same is that the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer. A car tagged at Rs. 1 lac is not the common man's priority. Food, sanitation, infrastructure, education, employment and empowerment are the priorities for the "Aam Aadmi" of India. The quality of these facilities and its availability make the nation and its people proud in the sight of the world.

Statistics show that there has been a 100% increase in the Total Sales of Passenger cars in India in a 5 year period of 2001-2002 to 2006-2007. The low budget cars would act as a catalyst and result in an exponential growth in the production and sales of cars. In a country where development towards infrastructure takes a back seat, such a growth is unwelcome. Even though I do not have statistics at my fingertips, I can blindly say that the death tolls due to road accidents is also on the rise.

The toll on the environment is also deadly. A Green Earth is only a matter of discussions, seminars and symposiums. Very little is being done to control, if not reverse the negative effects our new lifestyle has had on the environment. A vehicle stamped at Bharat IV or Euro III standards do not guarantee a pollution free environment. All it ensures is a lesser amount of emission. The key to reduction in emissions are Carpools, promoting public transport and the use of non-conventional energy sources.

The Central and State governments should aim for healthy partnerships with the Private Sector to invest in the Infrastructure and Public Transport. Everybody has a social responsibility in the evolution of their country and its ordinary citizen. The Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and the Mallyas have a bigger role in helping the society and providing back to the society. They should be in discussions and dialogues with the government and the people on projects that would bring about basic infrastructure, sanitation and public transport for the ordinary as a favour to the nation that has provided them with opportunities to grow.

"Been sitting in my Post for a long time now." - Masoud