It was a weekend. As was customary, we drove out to a relative’s place.
We reached and warm greetings were exchanged. “Great timing! You must have lunch with us.” I’m still wondering if it was said sarcastically. It wasn’t great timing. It was 11am and lunch would eventually be at around 4pm. You’ll read why.
Our initial plan was to dine out. We cook at home a fair bit, but every once in a while we like to have restaurant food. And because there exists a word called ‘persistence,’ we wouldn’t this time. We’d be having the kind of lunch that we wanted to avoid. Huh.
It was a fiery hot afternoon in the month of June. We were chilling — all the family folks — watching ‘The Incredibles’. A fun movie, it’s as much of a comic relief for adults as it is amusing for kids. If you haven’t, do watch it — you’ll be chuckling.
It was going surprisingly well. And then, the power went out. This wasn’t a high-rise apartment building with 24×7 electricity backup of infinite kilowatts. The backup supply was through a humble inverter and it didn’t have enough guts to work the ACs.
Everyone endured for a while. I was about to suggest it but casually glanced at my mother who was sitting diagonally across. She was staring at me with a scary focus. I understood immediately that I must not say anything. It’s a mystery how mothers can sense things.
A few minutes in, the headman host himself suggested — “we’ll get baked here, let’s go have lunch in a restaurant instead?”
“There is definitely a God!”, I mumbled.
It turned out to be a great afternoon. The food was absolutely brilliant, a lot, and I’m a glutton. Great combination, you might think. No, it isn’t. I ate digestives for the next two days.
We even had great conversations. One such was around how increasingly hot it has been becoming over the last couple of decades.
This rise in temperature is due to Global Warming.
There exists a very strange, very orange guy in the West who doesn’t think Global Warming is real. He’s even gone on to tweet it as an “expensive hoax”. This guy, Trump, never fails to be random, funny and irritating in equal measure.
Global Warming is very real. It’s not a hoax. In fact, in the US itself — you know, the country that orange guy leads — the biggest contributing factors are burning fossil fuel for electricity and transportation, in that order.
Because I’m a motoring guy, I’ll focus on transportation. It is responsible for about 14% of global greenhouse emissions. That’s a lot of vehicles!
Which brings me to India. We have a lot of cars too. That might change to a some degree because of an impending scrappage policy which is in the final few stages. Now listen, if you don’t want to part ways with your old junk — no, not that; I mean vehicle — that’s okay, arrange for it to be parked and care for it. In due time, it may become a classic and you can relish it as that. For now, the need of the hour is to rationalise things.
According to a study by HDFC Bank, if India’s policy is well structured, in excess of 9 million vehicles would go off the roads by fiscal 2021; 28 million by 2025. Most of these are going to be two-wheelers. CO2 emissions will reduce by 17% and particulate matter in air will see a reduction by 24%. And if even half of BS-2 and 3 vehicles are prohibited, it would result in a net saving of 8 million tonnes of oil per year. 8 million tonnes! Per year!
Automotive scrappage is expected to be a ₹40,000+ crore industry.
In one of my earlier posts, I’d written that a large percentage of people who use vehicles do it mostly for getting from one place to other. Home to office, then to some meeting place, back home — that sort of thing. Very rarely do they dip into the refreshing change of driving fun.
That’s why an efficient and reliable public transport ecosystem is critical. Delhi has shown that Metro rail is a great thing. But it’s not enough. We need more and good buses; even better drivers. We need mono-rail solutions for going small distances. We need dedicated intra-city public transport solution. Tramcars between city sectors, maybe? If it reduces the number of cars plying on the road to half (hopefully more), why not!
All of these — tramcars, monorail, metro — will have electric propulsion. Buses could use hybrid technology. But the central point is that they have to be good — like, really good — for people to start adopting them in a big way.
Lesser vehicles on the road will automatically make the infrequent exercise of driving or riding a pleasure; an enjoyment. That might excite a kid or two, and then a few. It’ll grow to a few hundred, a thousand, and then thousands. That will make motoring culture get better, maybe?
Let cars be for enjoyment and critical needs. For the boring, regular commute, use public transport. That’ll drive auto manufacturers to diversify and create public-transport solutions too.
But all this will take a long time to happen. If at all it does. Challenges? There’re plenty. But once, even a comb was an alien thought. Look how far we’ve come. Obstacles exist to be overcome.
But to bring about such a change, the culture needs to change. And that means it largely depends on people. We need to change. But will we? Yeah, will we?
The answer is that question itself. How ironic.