Stench-filled, crowded buses, dusty auto rickshaws, two-wheelers driving like Siamese twins in the overcrowded roads of India…if this makes you feel nostalgic (not to mention, nauseatic), then the new Tata Nano (the Rs. One-Lakh Car) appears to be the manna sought after, by the rising Indian bourgeois.
While hopeful masses have welcomed the idea with open arms, several others are sceptical about the Nano, which they say, will only add to the over-crowded roads of India, increase pollution and congestion, and clog the already choked road network.
This interestingly, is similar to nuclear non-proliferation – The five states that are already nuclear states (US, UK, China, Russia and France) are the ones that push the rest of the world to not develop/acquire nuclear weapons. They do not seem to disarm themselves, but want developing countries to stem their plans to go nuclear. Similarly, existing car-owners and the more affluent of society are the ones who are critical of the Nano being so accessible to the common man. The Haves continue to sit in the lap of luxury, while preaching abstinence to the Have-Nots !
Be it the nuclear NPT or reducing road pollution, it calls for a solution by everyone, especially the Haves, and not just the Have-nots.
Interestingly, we can thus draw a parallel between nuclear non-proliferation and the road congestion scenario in India:
1- NON-PROLIFERATION: Non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) agree to not acquire/manufacture/seek assistance in acquiring nuclear weapons. Nuclear states agree to not use their nuclear energy towards making weapons, to not assist non-nuclear weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons, and to not use their nuclear weapons against NNWS except in response to an attack. Similarly, those individuals who already own vehicles (cars/motorbikes/etc.) must consciously abstain from using their private vehicles for daily commute. And those who do not own a vehicle must try to avoid acquiring/using one.
2- As the above may seem unfair to the common man who is waiting to taste luxury himself, we embark on adopting the second pillar of the NPT – DISARMAMENT. As nuclear states must disarm themselves of nuclear and other weapons, so also should individuals who possess private vehicles, disarm themselves of this luxury in their daily life. This is of course, on the premise that India has a world-class public transport system. People must use the public transport system for their daily commute, and restrict usage of private vehicles (cars/bikes) to the weekends. Importantly, commuters need to develop civic sense, not pull/push one another in a hurry to get into or out of the vehicle, and not use the vehicle as a dustbin for their unimaginable garbage.
3- PEACEFUL USE OF ENERGY: While the world must cruise towards using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and not for weapons/distruction, the Indian government must also use resources to develop a robust, convenient and world-class Public transport system that is accessible to everyone in the country. Take the London Underground railway system for instance..with all its deficiencies, it is still the lifeline of the working class. Trains arrive on time, and they are indeed crowded during peak hours, but the network does not halt for trivial reasons. The Mumbai train system could be a good local example. Public transport vehicles (buses/trains) must be refurbished, made clean and safe to use, and the government must increase the number/frequency of buses, to cater to a wider working-population. And for heaven’s sake, they must be “p-u-n-c-t-u-a-l”.
Another action point by the Government, could be to introduce motoring taxation for privately owned vehicles plying on central roads of urban areas during peak hours, for example, by levying a congestion charge. This, with the dual objective of generating revenue and to stemming the usage of private vehicles, thereby minimising congestion.
To summarise, while the world drives towards peace, individuals like us must walk towards building a less-congested road network in India. I hope we all get to own Tata Nano(s) and still use MRTS in our daily life. Let’s hope that 2008 heralds personal disarmament and national progress.