[sustran] Re: India's blind love for cars (The Hindu)

ashok datar datar.ashok at gmail.com
Mon Jan 9 02:14:05 JST 2012

this is brilliant. It is the business of auto industry to promote the sales
of cars by means fair and foul . but that does not mean govt should go all
out to support, encourage and hugely subsidize their use inspite of the
fact they promote congestion, pollution and inequity
in fact, encouraging more sales of automobilies or not even debiting the
external costs such as congestion and pollution and energy waste is akin to
subsidizing drugs , smoking and alcohol
some min sharam , at least avoiding congestion which hurts even the
automobile users
great piece focussing in a sharp manner
ashok datar

On Sun, Jan 8, 2012 at 5:14 PM, Sarath Guttikunda <sguttikunda at gmail.com>wrote:

> The Hindu, January 6th, 2012
> *India's blind love for cars
> *
> http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/article2780985.ece?homepage=true
> *The energy and environmental effects of too many automobiles have not been
> addressed.*
> * *
> * *
> * *
> The Auto Expo reminds us that it is hard to imagine an urban middle-class
> nuclear family without a car. It establishes their middle class identity,
> and demarcates them from the press of the masses in crowded trains and
> buses. Cars seem safe, comfortable and — what holds the key to the
> middle-class psyche — dignified.
> The Hamara Bajaj family of four miraculously perched on a scooter would
> earlier evoke an indulgent smile; now, in an age of double-income families
> and car loans, it is a horror to be avoided for its risks and its sheer
> gracelessness. A family with an entry-level car like Nano or Alto, like
> Hamara Bajaj in the pre-reform days, is indisputably middle-class in the
> eyes of society.
> Cars are about both physical and social mobility; but there is also a caste
> system within the world of cars that is becoming intricate by the day. So,
> even within a small car segment, there are players who promote style and
> the ‘sensuous experience' of driving over the convenience of having a car.
> These subjective features, or ‘auto aesthetics' if you like, become more
> dominant as one goes up the price ladder. Hence, designers are crucial to
> the industry for their ability to lure the consumer. Helping them out on
> the showroom or exhibition floor are glassy models that wrap themselves
> around cars in impossible body angles.
> So, post-reform India has also been The Great Automobile Experience — not
> just for the consumer forever looking to upgrade his ‘auto caste', but for
> society at large. It has redefined the sharing of urban spaces: Those with
> cars control the public space, with the backing of the state. Yet, after
> two decades of our love affair with cars, society and government have been
> unmindful of its effects on the environment and energy consumption.
> Let's begin with social attitudes. It is remarkable how our main city roads
> are cluttered with cars right through the day, yet people driving cars
> complain about the worsening traffic, as though an extraterrestrial hand or
> some inherent tendency towards chaos were the cause. And, those sweating it
> out in buses cannot wait to buy their Nano or Alto on easy instalments!
> Some thousand new cars hit the roads of Bangalore or Delhi each day, yet
> the government or society isn't alarmed. Roads are widened, and trees,
> pavements, shops, houses and pedestrian paths make way for cars — and more
> cars. This seems like the normal thing to do, and is, in fact, regarded as
> a sign of good governance. When this space runs out, and it does very soon,
> there are flyovers and elevated expressways.
> Then, driving becomes pleasure, a cruise where no cows or slum-dwellers
> (who are below the expressway) can intervene. Distance is measured in
> minutes, not kilometres. So, when the road is great, you could be just “30
> minutes away from the city centre”, even if you are 30 km away. This
> promise of a silken smooth drive raises valuations of properties in distant
> suburbs. It also means that for some people, the cost of fuel does not
> matter much. If this is what “urban infrastructure” is all about, we are on
> a road to nowhere.
> The government is unperturbed, even as cars are rendering our cities
> dysfunctional by the day. Politicians and bureaucrats are sanguine about
> the emergence of India as an auto production and export hub. They wear a
> satisfied look, of presiding over a country that has ‘arrived', when they
> visit auto factories and expos. The Draft Approach Paper to the Twelfth
> Plan affirms this sense of unconcern. Its chapters on energy and transport
> merely talk about creating a mass rapid transit system in cities, without
> even a whisper on the distortions caused by the auto boom. Programmes like
> the JNNURM and Rajiv Awas Yojana have nothing critical to say about urban
> infrastructure as it is currently conceived. It's obvious that no one wants
> to take on the auto lobby. It has become a barometer of industrial
> activity; such is its grip on the minds of policymakers.
> At a broader level, the document seems to generally look upon rapid
> urbanisation as an inevitable and desirable consequence of high growth (in
> itself, a problematic notion), without saying anything on how urbanisation
> can deepen our energy problems. It could have observed that by promoting
> expressways and cars, the government and banks are encouraging energy
> inefficiency, not just through higher direct consumption of petrol and,
> worse still, diesel, but also through needless use of primary energy to
> make steel, cement and tar for flyovers, and longer and wider roads.
> India's supposed ‘right to grow', consume energy, and spew carbon compounds
> seems a specious argument in the context of the transport sector. Transport
> accounts for approximately 11 per cent of our energy use, but this is
> likely to increase rapidly if we are to continue with our present ways.
> How do we break out of the present combination of shoddy thinking and
> dubious intent? A cosmetic approach of insisting on fuel-efficient vehicles
> is to evade the basic problem — too many cars on the road. That buses and
> trains are more energy-efficient is a no-brainer. But to ensure that they —
> along with the much-maligned and energy-efficient auto-rickshaw — get a
> lion's share of the road space, there must be policies in place to limit
> use of cars. Cars should be heavily taxed, more so diesel ones. Banks
> should go easy on car loans as part of long-term energy and environment
> management. Business and central districts in a city should ramp up their
> parking rates, as in places like London.
> And, we should ensure that our cities don't grow too large. The ideal city
> is one where we can cycle from one place to another, like some of the
> prettier European towns. The aesthetics of such an existence would outdo
> that conjured up for us by auto design gurus. By the way, how come the
> cyclist does not figure in our energy and transport planning?
> --
> *Dr. Sarath Guttikunda*
> Founder and Analyst, UrbanEmissions.Info (New Delhi, India)
> Affiliate Associate Research Professor, Desert Research Institute (Reno,
> USA)
> *Tel +91-9891315946  |  http://www.urbanemissions.info*
> *http://www.dri.edu/sarath-guttikunda*
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Ashok R.Datar
Mumbai Environmental Social Network
20 Madhavi, Makarand Society, S.V.S.Marg, Mahim-400 016
98676 65107/0222 444 9212 see our website : www.mesn.org

* I hear, then I forget.  I see, then I remember. I do, then I understand.*

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