The ‘Nano” Issue

Driving to work every morning is a nightmare for all. At least for those of us who stay in the metros. Mumbai bags the top spot for the worst traffic in the country. Most people prefer local transport to driving their own vehicles which is much more time saving and economical. The traffic has to be extremely horrific for people to actually prefer traveling in overcrowded, smelly local trains in a city with extremely humid weather conditions. Bangalore, a favorite with anyone who resides there for even a short while has now become truly nightmarish. Delhi is better than these two. However being a resident of this city and always having to travel in peak traffic time, I can say that the picture isn’t too pretty here either.

That’s where our small car comes in to the big picture. Ratan Tata’s prize project-The Tata nano. A small car that comes with big problems. The idea is fantastic and it is highly commendable that despite all odds, the selling price of the car is still estimated to be one lakh rupees. The company has cut costs by taking advantage of India’s low production costs and by cutting out a lot of frills.

The idea is that it’s a people’s car. The car is meant to be a step upward for the lower middle class. Those who have two wheelers shall now graduate to a car. Everything sounds brilliant until now. In a way it still is. In spite of all the disadvantages, one can’t negate the sheer brilliance of the idea. There is a dark side though. What happens to the already congested roads? The Nano would undoubtedly spark off a wave of sales, not only of its own car, but of other cars who would revise prices to get their piece of market share.

The idea still sounds nice. So everyone gets to have their own car. So what? Developed countries like the US have extremely high car-people ratios. However these countries have much lower populations in the first place. With a high population like ours, a high car-person ratio would result in a ludicrous number of cars in the country.

The pollution and the effect on global warming cannot be ignored. The increase in the demand for oil may further trigger inflation. Apart from the environmental costs, the true cost will fall on every citizen who uses any form of transport at all.

A lot of arguments have been made against this. They say that no one should be denied the right to own a car. When the upper layers of society own numerous cars per household, why should the common man be denied the simplest model of a car available? Cars should be available to everyone and it is the duty of the state to ensure everyone’s comfortable usage of their cars like building more flyovers, etc. These statements sound airy and fact-less. The state taking such measures would require the resources of two more countries. Global warming can on no account be ignored. The traffic problem would become even more phenomenal. If everyone in the country owns a car, the feasibility of using the car is taken away from not only the existing car users, but also the new owners. What is the point in ensuring everyone the ownership of a car and in the end letting no one enjoy it?

The idea of the car is to better the existing condition of the people. And if it doesn’t, at least don’t call it a “People’s Car”.

Vandana Sebastian

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