I always curse Bajaj uncle every time I step on the brake while driving.
The easy-maneuverability, wobbly design and low-cost running of the 3-wheelers (fondly called Autos or Autorickshaws) that he sprayed onto Indian roads have become the largest hurdle in having a decent traffic pattern. Cities like Bombay have banned autos from the business districts, which is such a blessing. In Bangalore, the irrationally large number of licenses doled out by vote-happy politicians have multiplied the mess. With their sudden stopping, sudden swerving and smoke-spewing posteriors, this breed of vehicles takes back in public safety and convenience what it offers by way of "transport".
Tata Uncle has brought the same menace to 4 wheelers now. The Tata NANO was launched at Auto Expo in New Delhi today, with an ex-showroom price of $2500. While we appreciate his concern for the middle class to have an affordable vehicle, we wonder whether at that cost he can really promise a SAFE ride to the family? With the raging road traffic, especially the Monster Cabs and SUVs, being in the Nano might be akin to sitting in Bajaj Uncle's autos!
While the commercial success of this-- and copy-cats to follow-- is near assured, one wonders if that same middle-class is not cutting the branch it is sitting on? Corrupt or sleeping municipalities sanction new Malls and Office Complexes as part of India's reality boom with parking sufficient for 20 vehicles and seat capacity of 3000 or more! Residential complexes sport the "Visitor Parking Not Allowed" banner. Fancy hypermarts like Forum, Spar and Big Bazar have absolutely no access road, causing main-road traffic to pile up for miles as cars wait to find parking slots. With high-end vehicles like Skoda and Hyundai spewing black smoke, the sanctity of PUC certificate is a joke!
Add the Nano and its sisters to this milieu. Tata and Toyota would do the common man a much greater service if they came up with more affordable, more efficient and more accessible public-transport vehicles that city municipalities could deploy with their meagre budgets.
Look around for a second. Those bedrock institutions, the foundational supports you take for granted--they rarely last forever. Nurturing and investing in ...