Speed breaking the vehicle number

If the number of cars is any yardstick for development, we are speeding. From about 12,000 vehicles in the country two decades ago, there are almost 68,700 vehicles in the country.

This is a huge number. We have one vehicle for every 11 people or 90 vehicles for every 1,000 people, topping the motor vehicle per capita in the SAARC region. But this is nothing to be proud of. While there had certainly been improvement is socioeconomic developments, we are experiencing a lot of problems related to motor vehicles.

Traffic jams is not a new trend. In fact, it is accepted as a reason for reporting late to duty. Parking spaces are becoming smaller or harder to find and pollution has become an issue. We learn that hundreds of people are killed in thousands of motor vehicle accidents every year.

Despite all these, there seem to be no concrete step taken to limit the vehicle number. The ban on import of vehicle, imposed a couple of years ago, was not to control the number of cars. It was a temporary solution to plug the hole through which scarce Indian Rupee was flowing. The government lifted the ban on the import of vehicle and imposed hefty taxes to control through taxation policy.

The result today is alarming. In five months we have imported vehicles to the 2011 level. Thirteen vehicles hitting the road is a concern.  The expectation was that higher duties would discourage people from buying. It has not. The problem, it seems, was simultaneously lifting the restriction on loans to buy cars.

Call it a populist decision, the banks managed to shake off the restriction. Cars are expensive, but bank loans make it possible to buy them. Electric cars, it seems is not fancying us. And dealers are selling more diesel cars than electric. The Prime Minister’s personal effort of promoting it by even driving one around has not changed the mindset.

The only positive thing we can take from the car buying frenzy is that our people are becoming richer, but that too is not sure with banks dishing out loans, encouraging more buyers. At the current rate, our infrastructure will not be able to safely carry or accommodate the rising number.

With all these problems, our decision makers are not even acknowledging that this is a problem. Establishing better and efficient public transport system, the best solution, has been talked about so many times, for so many years, but nothing has changed. Similarly, the mentality that the bigger and better the car, the greater the social status, and this is encouraging the buying spree.

Ironically, developed countries try to limit the number of cars on the road and improve public transport system. A clear sign of development will be the presence of cheaper and reliable transport facility. Not the number of cars choking the roads.


1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    The increasing number of vehicles registered look alarming, but even the most populous cities of the country not necessarily have the scale required to develop an efficient public transport. Moreover, public transport usually serves the secondary need of transportation behind private or personal mode of transport. Bad traffic or lack of parking places can’t always be blamed on increasing number of vehicles. Only recently, while constructing a building, people are thinking parking spaces whether it’s a residential or commercial or govt office building. Whether it’s a man riding a horse in ancient time or one riding a bicycle in today’s time, private mode of transport has been a necessity in every era of human civilization. Good thing is that people have more options now in terms of what vehicle they like to own, but they must pick their choices carefully.

    Convenience of a private mode of transport can’t be ignored at all, but ownership models of the same can be considered with more options so that utilization of every vehicle can be maximized. But it’s up to the owners to plan and decide. Public transport can only influence those plans and decisions. If you love driving, I always feel that Bhutan can present a unique experience to drivers. But the country needs the infrastructure for that and with the infrastructure in place; public transportation is bound to improve.

    But if one talks city bus services, no one likes to wait for more than five minutes at any bus stop waiting for that next bus. We may not mind an overcrowded city bus during the rush hours, but that’s not how we should travel by public transport considering safety. So better planning is always required as public transportation needs to maintain the number of passengers per trip. Better utilization of private vehicles is required to make public transport more efficient and successful.

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