The Congress has taken umbrage to a Goa minister’s suggestion that the people beat the fuel price rise by purchasing e-vehicles, describing it as a Marie Antoinette type statement. But is it? The oil producing countries have been holding the world to ransom from as long ago as 1974. The first response came with the production of fuel efficient vehicles, which brought about some kind of balance. Also, the search began for alternative energy sources, leading to the present stage of technological innovation where several choices are available.
It is true that for some people the alternatives may not be viable, but for most these are. For instance, e-scooters have been in the market for a long time now, with the government even providing hefty subsidies, but it is only now that a substantial number can be seen on the roads. The Nano was developed as not only a cheap car but also a low consumer of petrol, but few people thought it necessary. Most did not wish to be identified as ‘common’ or poor. Despite the high fuel prices, massive SUVs, etc., are being driven around on the congested roads with just one occupant. There are so many high priced motorcycles being driven by youngsters out having a good time on their parents’ money.
As an alternative to cooking with LPG, there are cheap and subsidised solar cookers available in the market. It is true that in the urban environment, these are not so functional because of time constraints, but what is keeping all of rural India from adopting them? In much of India, they can be used at least two-thirds of the year and, yet, they have not taken off. This is because Indians have got used to political insistence on keeping fuel prices low even if it requires subsidies. This habit is hurting now because the present government is, instead, making money off this addiction.
It is obvious that the slice of population that is actually hurt by fuel price rise is a narrow one and most others are riding on that bandwagon. However, it is only a matter of time before the blackmailing by oil producers will come to an end. Alternatives are developing not just in the transport sector, but also in people’s actual need to travel. E-payments and e-governance, for instance, as also online shopping, coupled with the developing ‘work from anywhere’ concept are ending the need to commute unnecessarily. The truth is that a lot of people are driving around on the roads because they can easily afford it – even the environmental hobbyists travelling to the next protest site.