If people aspire for personal transport, whether it is a two- or four-wheeler (among the top three aspirations of people today), why should anyone come in the way of that? Essentially infrastructure, congestion on the roads and road safety are factors that make us say that something needs to be done. But whose job is it to do that? I pay taxes, elect people to do what I think I need. Isn’t it their job to look at the present conditions, plan for the future and get it done? Why has it not been done all these years? How have other countries, even neighbours like Thailand, Malaysia, or Sri Lanka, managed to improve infrastructure and we have not?
So what is the solution? It can possibly be more roads, metros or monorail but that is for the experts to decide. We certainly need more roads. A few things stand out in India—our traffic management, for one. We have a set of rules on how traffic should be managed. Are those rules enforced by anybody? Every single rule on how you should drive is violated with impunity throughout India. We have no enforcement. Over years we have reached a state in our society where hardly anybody respects the laws.
Rules were made with the intent of making traffic flow smoother and faster. When you violate them, you not only increase the danger levels on roads but also slow down traffic. This is what creates greater traffic congestion today. And this comes from a lack of knowledge which, again, comes from easy licensing. We do not have anyway close to the infrastructure required if licences are to be given after testing people on both the theoretical and the practical sides of driving correctly. The rules made under the Motor Vehicles Act are at least 30 years behind time. They just don’t take into account modern requirements.
If we manage traffic correctly in India, we could certainly reduce congestion and delays by some 20 per cent. So can the car-maker be blamed for this? I am just doing my job of producing more and more cars, which people want. But a whole bunch of guys are not doing their jobs. Let the people concerned start working on what is the best way to provide infrastructure. You cannot start on a flyover and then take five years to complete it. As long as you have a burgeoning population, they will need some means of commuting. Public transport is okay for some limited purposes, not for all. The best public transport doesn’t remove the need for private transport.
Why should the focus turn to whether people should buy cars or not? Ultimately the determinants of what is needed in any society are the people. The fact is that today we have a population of 1.3 billion people. And they have a right to aspire to improve their lifestyles. There is no reason why you and I should move around comfortably in air-conditioned cars and other people should not even aspire to do that. Isn’t it time that all of us gave this some thought?
R.C. Bhargava is chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd