Traffic in most cities is nightmarish, with the World Bank estimating that city traffic has grown by 15 per cent a year for the last decade this when car penetration in India is a low 10 per 1,000 population, as compared to 500 per 1,000 in developed countries. Unless the government acts quickly to close the infrastructure deficit, the dream of mobility for all will quickly turn into a gridlocked nightmare.
I think if traffic is to be scientifically managed, the Bajaj autorickshaw must go. It is this vehicle that complicates matters on our city streets. With India now emerging as a global “hub” for manufacturing small cars – the ToI editorial is titled “Hub of small things” – it is vital that these modern cars replace the silly autorickshaw. Only then will it be possible to manage traffic properly in our teeming cities. Of course, roads will have to be built on a war footing – but you read about that on this blog quite often, don’t you?
The only point that I would like to add today is the statistic quoted in the ToI editorial – that car sales are expected to grow at 16 per cent this year. Such growth has been a normal feature in the years past as well. As this trend continues, it is vital that we wake up to the fact that a sea change has occurred in our lives and on our streets, a change that The Chacha State has not noticed – that fact that more and more Indians are car owners. Volkswagen, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Nissan-Renault have all unveiled plans to manufacture more than 100,000 cars annually in India. This is apart from the even bigger plans of Maruti-Suzuki. If the Central Planner wishes to think ahead – a basic function of the planner – then he must think of roads for all these cars.
Roads, more roads, and even more roads – that is what I recommend from the public kitty. We can then manage traffic, achieve a modicum of road safety, and even decongest our cities and develop satellite townships. All this depends on a roads vision – something The Chacha State sorely lacks. Therein lies the rub.