Plan, shall we?

Trouble is that animal which hunts in a pack. This, I was reminded of, when I saw our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh address the nation on fuel hike. If curbing inflation and reversing his party’s electoral fortunes was not a worry enough, the man has to now pray that his countrymen show restraint in using fuel but still vote for his party.


Looking at it from the point of view of a middle class Indian, the party has been spoilt. After years of suffering under license raj, where you could only buy Fiats and Ambassadors, he had only recently started to feel the ease of a Hyundai and the power of a Scorpio. But even before his next generation could savour these luxuries, attempts have been made to stall him. So delicate is the situation that after PM Singh announced a hike in prices, global crude oil prices dropped immediately to $124 a barrel because the world was relieved that India will find it difficult to buy and thus the demand would fall.


Whose fault it is that we stare at this ugly situation? Not the world’s and certainly not that of the middle class Indian. I would raise my finger to a habit that has long besieged us Indians, as a habit – utter disregard and implementation of planning.


Let’s take the case of Mumbai. The city has always been the country’s commercial capital. This tradition continued even after liberalisation of our economy. As the size and contents in the wallet of Mumbaikars grew, the roads shrunk with the increasing amount of cars. Even while this went on and on, our policy makers only woke up recently and announced a Metro rail and a monorail and air conditioned corridor for railways and air conditioned water transport and what not, as cheaper alternatives to car users! Since these things don’t come easy and our policy makers aren’t exactly the most efficient ones, we can conveniently wait for next five years for any of these things to materialise. So, would you blame the middle-class Mumbaikar if he can afford a car and wants a decent ride to work place in an air conditioned vehicle? I won’t. In the commercial capital of a country that aspires to a superpower, it certainly isn’t asking for too much.


Thus I don’t see a substantial dip in the fuel consumption even though it has become costly. Net result being that the lack of planning on part of our policy makers has driven us to where we stand today. I am surprised that many bureaucrats I have spoken to have agreed with me on this.


Moving ahead, some of these bureaucrats told me that past is past and that we need to look ahead. Fine, as you say, Sir.


A few days back, I was on my way home in train from the hill station of Matheran. The railway line there was a two-track one which caters to up and down train traffic. On seeing that, I wondered if these bureaucrats will start constructing additional railway tracks even though the area is, for now, out of Mumbai’s mad land grab. I wondered if these bureaucrats will wait till the traffic rises there and commuters are forced to perform ‘rail rokos’ or will they plan and implement earlier? What will take place on that track near Matheran, I somehow believe, will be the future of how the emerging India deals with its issues.



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