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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The One Lakh Car

The euphoria about the Rs. 1 lakh car is still on. The 'Nano' is suddenly an Indian word. We are all proud of Mr. Tata. No one is sure how much the car will be priced at all. The doubts remain, both by those who are worried about the pollution and those worried about the traffic. Other car manufacturers are already expressing their desire to bring out similar cars.

Indians still walk in the roads. Roads as a means for walking has not found much favour with modern day city builders. Indeed, currently 'green walk ways' are only seen in advertisements for expensive apartments with manicured forests coming up after destroying much of the natural greenery there.

Indians still do cycling. Perhaps many more people cycle in the roads than those who ride cars in our metroes. I can certainly talk for Chennai. But, no longer does cyclist come up when our city and town planners visualize the new city or town.

Sometime back, a famous car company donated quite a few luxury cars to the traffic police department in Chennai city. The shameless cops accepted it with greed and gusto. This was a strategy adopted by the company to ensure that the cops identify themselves with the car drivers rather than with the bike drivers. Till recent times the traffic cops only owned and drove bikes and hence their identification too was only with this vehicle.

Now, the Chennai metropolitan city has large airconditioned fancy buses. I think this is a strategy to ensure that no citizen complains against such large buses that have started to choke the city roads and operated for the sake of the IT and ITES companies. These buses traverse areas where the metropolitan buses are not permitted and are often parked randomly to pick up and drop off the employees of large corporates.

Making fancier and fancier devices cheaper cannot happen without destroying nature to produce that much more. However, their main utility is in isolating people. Cars have forever isolated people. Smaller cars in India promoted the nuclear families travelling together. Smaller cars also meant city driving and smaller parking lots that go with simpler apartments. It deprives you the pleasure of walking around in the neighbourhood and caring for it. It reduces pedestrians and cyclists to mere nuisances in the road.

In subtle ways the appliances we adopt and the habitat we choose to inhibit in shape our behaviour, our way of life and our culture. Nano, no doubt is an engineering achievement from an otherwise technical accomplishments deprived modern nation. But, will the Nano reduce the communities and people to indifferent nano particles, living closeby, yet defining tinier and tinier boundaries?

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