Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nano to Create Social Chaos in India

The 1 lac rupees car will be a revolution indeed. maybe there is no such precedence in industrial era. The car will make it affordable for middle class and maybe those at the lower end of this class. It would be a great way of improving the image of India as an innovator from that of a follower. Tatas are showing way to the Indians of what is possible if we set our sight on what we want and pursue the same relentlessly.

My concern, however, is that this car is going to cause social chaos in India.

The issue is whether the already highly stretched infrastrucuture will be able to take an steep increase in the number of cars. As it is the infrastructure is cracking and is creating enormous discomfort to the citizens.

Here are some numbers I am quoting from a site: http://www.ctn.org.in/cms/content/view/54/106/

The total number of motor vehicles in Chennai Metropolitan Area has increased from 144,282 in 1984 to 1,674,185 in 2005.

The vehicle population has grown at the rate of 50% per annum during this period.

The number of two-wheelers has grown enormously from 87,000 in 1984 to 1,266, 114 in 2005, at the rate of about 65% per annum.

If I assume that the number of two wheelers are increasing at the rate of 20% annually.

And that 10% of those who intend to purchase two wheeler go for the car instead. This is an assumption from an article published on this car in a leading business weekly).

This would mean an addition of around 20000 cars. Of course in the initial few years of the introduction of the car this kind of addition will not be possible because of the production capacity.

Will our road be able to take on this kind of additional car traffic? This is not going to be possible. What then would be the consequence?

- Flats which were purchased by the middle and lower middle class do not facility to park cars. They did not assume that they will be purchasing cars so early in their life or career. Now they will not have space to park the car they purchase. Some will try to squeeze in the car into the apartment complex. But most will have to park their cars on the public roads. This will narrow the width of the roads further and reduce the space available for moving vehicles on the roads leading to further congestion.

- Traffic will choke at most roads. even without the 1 lac rupee car traffic during the peak hours are very high.

- Higher level of pollution and thus health problems caused by them

- People will race against time. They will get delayed. They will spend a greater amount of time in jams and signals. Tempers will fly. Stress will increase. This will show on their health, their relationships with office colleagues and family members.

Some positive actions may emerge:

- shifting of population to the outskirts, de-congesting the metropolis areas

- greater pressure on the Govt to improve the infrastructure, to come up with newer projects including in areas like public transport, to complete projects with greater urgency

- of course, improvement in employment by way of ancillary industries and services

On the whole I fear there will severe social impplications coming from the coming of the 1 lac rupee car.