Opinion: It’s your mobility versus mine

The pedestrians have to be taken of much before those on pedals are when creating the infrastructure to move. By Avik ChattopadhyayExclusion is fashionable these days. Seems the world is too small and precious to accommodate all of us, together.Gated condominiums have given way to communities and finally countries. Purity has transcended water and food into blood, faith and race.Liberty of inclusion is looked down upon in various parts of the world today. Proliferation of thought and opinion has given way to polarity.Its “my” way versus “your” way. Zero sum game. Only minus. No plus.The same refrain seems to have crept into the world of mobility in our country.It started some time in 2016 when suddenly a group of quasi-governmental people thought they had all the answers to India’s mobility problems and future. Not the first time have exalted think tanks felt so, but this time their answers were the only answers. In the true spirit of mobility, it was their way or the highway!The narrative today is too polarised and confused at the same time. Too fraught with mutual disrespect and anxiety.The policy makers are busy in perfecting their periodic flip-flops. The judiciary loves playing the role of god and a micro-manager. The planners have no idea and opinion on which way to look and path to take.The government has to provide public transport of quality~ The automobile industry is in a tailspin of brought about by personal greed and governmental apathy. And suffers from a deep sense of insecurity at accepting the new technology players as one of their own.All at the cost of the consumer, the vehicle operator and the industry worker. There are six factors that drive this polarisation deep into policy, planning, business and finally consumer behaviour. Shared versus ownedI can have my own vehicle and still use shared solutions and live a happy life. My own vehicle is an extension of my personality and an expression of me and my family. And I use it over the weekends and when the family goes out for dinner and to our relatives. That does not clash one bit with the fact that I use an Uber Moto or Zoomcar for my daily commute. It allows three positive things – destresses me from driving in traffic, helps me contribute a bit to decongestion and ensures sustainable employment to a fellow citizen. Road versus rail versus air versus waterIt has to be road plus rail plus air plus water. All rolled into one common mobility service. Multi-mode. I should use just one card that allows me land in Dum Dum by air, take a taxi to Salt Lake Sector 5, board on the metro to Babu Ghat and then take the ferry to cross the Hooghly and finally take an auto to my home in Howrah. Simple? Simple!Public versus privateGustavo Petro the ex-mayor of Bogota had once commented that a rich nation is not one where everyone has a car, but where the rich who have cars take public transport! This is level of maturity at which both the government, the corporate and the car owner have to operate to bring about socially sustainable mobility. The government has to provide public transport of that quality. The corporates have to encourage employees to use public transport and offer bus service. The car owner has to realise that using the metro or a bus does not drag one’s status down. Electric versus fossil fuelWe should be bothered only about clean and sustainable mobility solutions and not be obsessed with just one being the only way forward. This “Only Electric” stand by the government and NITI Aayog from 2017 could have damaged the fabric of future mobility in India but for the slow pace of policy making combined with consumer scepticism with the entire issue. There are enough intelligent people working on various solutions to make the world more liveable and congenial, so throw your arms open and accept all. Even children have the option of three different types of curriculum to choose their school education from!The car owner has to realise that using the metro or a bus does not drag one’s status down~ Government versus private enterpriseThis is the perennial bone of contention, as to who takes the first step and has the last word on deciding what is best for the country. Both key pillars have always been at loggerheads, more so now. Selfishness, greed, ineptness and corruption lead to contrasting and conflicting stands being taken on key issues of mobility, from safety, to emissions, to the energy source. It will be interesting to check how many legal cases the industry is fighting the government on such issues right now…the number stands testimony to the mutual disrespect and mistrust. Nothing can actually happen unless this is immediately addressed and acted upon.Pedestrian versus “pedalist”Finally, it all boils down to making mobility truly inclusive and empathetic. The pedestrians have to be taken of much before those on pedals are when creating the infrastructure to move. Right now, the pedestrian is a castaway and an after-thought. As a collective society we are insensitive to their basic functional need and safety. Roads are built without footpaths. Footpaths are encroached upon by civic authorities. And then they are annexed into roads being widened. Leading to millions of our citizens walking on motorable roads every day to work and back, putting their lives at risk. The plot and its execution is repeated day after day in each corner of the country with unerring apathy. Forgetting that there are times when the man at the wheel becomes a man on the sidewalk. Tagore had once said that only in love are unity and duality not in conflict.Well, I guess when you love your country well enough, the unity and duality can be harnessed into putting together a mobility solution that is not just mine or yours, but finally ours!Follow and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube

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