By ROLI S
The size of our population is again in the news because our Prime Minister has appealed to the people to think about it and show their patriotism by limiting the size of their families and rightly so. This has started endless debates on many issues that India faces due to the large population. I am going to highlight here one issue that has affected me personally to the extent that now I am refusing jobs at places away from my home! Yes, you guessed it, I am talking about the menace of traffic and the teming humanity on our roads that is making life hell for commuters. Will the reduced population and a smaller number of people on the roads help solve the problem? I know it is not as simple as that. I know that we need to develop our public transport system, roadways and all that, but I don’t know why when I heard our Prime Minister talking about the population on 15 August, the first thing that came to my mind was, maybe it will solve my problem of ‘traffic jams and the number of vehicles on our roads”! That is how much I have suffered in the last few years because of the congested roads! When I looked up a dictionary to describe a traffic jam, I came across this meaning: “Traffic jam is a condition in which the vehicles get stuck in a jam for a certain period of time.” Then I asked a question to myself, “a certain period of time”? No way, this definition is not right because ‘certainty’ is one trait that eludes the traffic jams these days. I have recently experienced the traffic of two- tier cities of India and I found that the condition is not something to talk about even in those cities! I forget the times I have looked around a traffic jam sitting inside my vehicle and seen ambulances, school buses, et al, stuck for hours and my thoughts had gone out to all the people affected by this malady. I don’t know how many lives have been lost because ambulances have not reached the hospitals on time. I don’t know how many have missed their flights and trains. I don’t know how many have developed stress related diseases. I don’t know how much fuel has been burnt unnecessarily and how much pollution has been created. All of this because of the troublemaker traffic jams! I recently heard that automakers are not happy as their businesses are going down and people are not buying cars. By no means do I wish that any businesses should suffer, but guys where is the space on our roads to drive the vehicles? I know of people owning three- four vehicles! So much of status is attached to the ownership of cars and private vehicles in India! It surprises me the auto industry is not doing well! I think it is just a matter of time; very soon there will be more vehicles, more traffic jams, more noise and more pollution on the roads! After all the economy must grow, shouldn’t it? I have also heard that electric vehicles are the next best things that are going to hit the Indian roads. It will solve the problem of pollution to some extent in the future but let me not deviate from my topic of discussion. Will electric vehicles solve the problem of traffic jams? Will the change in the ‘type of energy used ‘also change the mindset of people? Will people buy a smaller number of electric vehicles because they were in love with diesel and petrol? Will the ambulances reach hospitals in time? Will school buses have a free way? Will population become less? Oh, my God! What has happened to me? Why am I connecting electric vehicles to population control? I think I am really confused between the two issues of traffic jams and population! They are not related but they are! Aren’t they? I mean will these problems be ever solved in our country. When? How? Now this talk about population control has started this debate about traffic jams is creating a jam of sorts in my head. Nevertheless, I want to end on a happy note because traffic jams are to be tolerated and people are to be celebrated till a solution is found. Let us understand a traffic jam as nothing but a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity. Let us all sit back, relax and enjoy the traffic passing by or stuck and wait for happier days!
(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai)