Horse Before The Car

An earlier post, on 17th September, titled Thank God It’s Tuesday, has stirred the hornet’s nest. The nest, that we also call home. Battle lines have been drawn. Predictably, as my readers would have come to guess by now, only me on one side.

Matters came to such a pass that the entire duration of a drive to a restaurant, about a week back, lasting about forty-five minutes, one of the longest forty-five minutes I have encountered, was devoted to a discussion on the subject of car-free Tuesdays, as has been proposed, and implemented in parts of Gurgaon, and, on which subject, my earlier post was based. Despite knowing who I was up against, there being no place to hide inside a car on a forty-five minute drive, the debate was joined.

Just as well, because what was understood to be a one-day adventure, is now expected to become a weekly affair. Come Tuesday, come car-free day in Gurgaon. The next Tuesday is never far away.

Reproduced below, to the best of my memory, is a summary of what transpired in the confines of a car travelling forty-five minutes to a restaurant in Delhi, with four people inside, about a week back, as night was falling. In order that you do not go scrolling down to the bottom of this post, I will only reveal here that all four occupants came out alive, without signs of any bodily harm or physical injury.

Them:

Cannot understand the criticism of car-free Tuesdays. It is a good idea. You have to start somewhere, isn’t it? Maybe it cannot be done on other days of the week for some reason. Going car-free on one day of the week is a step in the right direction and we should encourage it. And it is OK if a cost-benefit analysis has not been done. It is not possible to have a cost-benefit for everything. This is for raising awareness amongst people, of the benefits of not using cars. Even raising awareness is a benefit, is it not?

Me:

I have nothing against it. But, if it is such a good idea, why are we doing it only on one day of the week? Every day should be a car-free day. Hastily declaring a day as a car-free day sounds fishy to me. It reeks of tokenism; doing something because you are under pressure to take some action, irrespective of eventual results. The Gurgaon administration will perhaps claim that pollution levels on Tuesday have come down thanks to this drive, without certifying if the levels on other days go up.

And what about impact on output, or GDP? Is there nobody missing a meeting? Is there nobody rescheduling planned work? Are there no workers unable to make it to work? Are they going to do that missed work on another day? Will that not increase the pollution level on that other day?

Where do the bicycles and shuttle buses being used on Tuesdays come from? Is there an alternate use which they are being forced to cancel, for their availability for car-free Tuesdays? What about the GDP loss on account of withdrawal from those services? If not, then do we have an excess of this equipment? Who is responsible for spending people’s money on buying needless equipment which will only be used on Tuesdays?

If the administration is saying that private companies are providing these resources at no cost to the exchequer, we will obviously believe them. Because private companies in India are set-up for the purpose of charity and public good. To chip-in as and when a government official gives a call for a car-free Tuesday. Making money is not part of their DNA. They will neither look for compensation nor contracts in lieu, for the services so provided.

Before the government implements a plan, there needs to be an assessment. The assessment needs to say that the plan will add value, or, be good for the world, or the part of the world they are responsible for. If assessed to be good, it should become a law, and implemented forever. If not good, what is the point of doing it even one day of the week? One does need to have a view. It may not be an exact mathematical assessment, but a view needs to be taken, based on available information, whether a proposed action will be of benefit or not.

If the population being addressed is that of adults, where is the need for “show and tell”? Are we saying out adult population is not smart enough to know what is good for them and what is not? There are education and awareness mechanisms available, like advertising. Why not use them? And, if people, based on their assessment of the world around them, have come to the conclusion that driving is the most effective means of transport for them, are they not going to continue driving on other days of the week once these special shuttle-buses and cycles stop being available on those days?

If raising awareness were to be enough, why don’t we switch off all traffic lights and make them work only on, say, Wednesdays, to raise awareness among people that it is good for them to follow traffic rules. The rest of the days should, arguably, be smooth because we would have told those foolish adults what they would never have otherwise known. Or hang people for murders committed only on Thursdays. Murders on other days will automatically stop. Of course we have a foolish adult population and we need our wise administrators to tell them what is good for them.

Though I have clearly expressed my views in the earlier post as well, having heard strong contrary opinions from my family members, I wanted to open up the debate to a larger audience. I have been known to be a fair person, especially when under pressure to be fair. Would welcome your views on the subject. Of course, any views different from mine could be subject to summary deletion.

I have also attempted to use the polling option to seek specific feedback, if you can spare a minute.

 

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12 thoughts on “Horse Before The Car

  1. I’m rather on your side of this canyon, Ankur. I have no problem with ‘car-free’ days, likely would enjoy the exercise, but maybe India has the same zoning issues we have in America, where residential is purposely separated from commercial and other types of buildings. I would have to walk five miles to get to the school I teach at!

  2. I am so sorry that such a well reasoned and thought provoking article has cause such unreasonable
    tension in a car when all you wanted was a pleasant trip to dinner. You just can’t please all the people even some of the time.

  3. Barber shops are closed on Tuesdays but I have been tearing my hair out exploring the connection between weekly holiday of barber shops and no cars day in Gurgaon on Tuesdays

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