Reasons why govt needs to provide an alternative before imposing restrictions

Chennai: The Indian landscape has changed bounds and leaps in recent years. Keeping the perspective to the automotive field alone will reveal growth, in the literal sense, in the number of vehicles bought by people. Be it farm vehicles or daily use commuter vehicles, as people found a need to spend more, they purchased vehicles and in turn the government, which runs mostly on taxes collected from users of such vehicles, also thrived.

It was simple to see because a person who buys a bike, for example, will have to pay the road tax and registration fee, apart from insurance to run it on the road. Moreover, motorists pay more than Rs 50 per litre of petrol in taxes. The whole bike is taxed as well, remember.

But now, the government has intimated that it wants to ban sub-150cc vehicles. Why? well, it is no secret that our roads are getting clogged up due to every household having two vehicles. Pollution too rises because of that and the government’s answer to the issue is to get rid of those vehicles altogether.

When seen from the eyes of the government, it is easy to see why they came to such a conclusion. Annually around two crore commuter vehicles are sold in India and they clog up the roads and cause pollution levels to increase. So, stopping additional number of vehicles from being added onto the road might keep things under control.

But when seen from a broader perspective, which the government should, things are different. For one, those sub-150cc vehicles are brought by the middle-class and low income community. The latter use such vehicles for various purposes, including doing business.

Look around and we can see a person who sells crisps will have a moped. A chai-wala, a person who delivers water cans, food delivery guys, you name it, bet their livelihood on such vehicles because they are cheaper to buy, much less costly to insure and give respectable economy.

Take away those vehicles from them and where will they go? It is not like electric vehicles are comparable to IC-engined ones at the moment.

Then comes pollution. The government has forgotten that vehicles that ply on the road are certified by itself as being road-worthy. If pollution has increased to alarming levels, then the fault is from the government side as well. It should review why the officers it has working for a lump salary did not foresee the issue and come up with a solution, rather than stopping sale of such vehicles altogether.

There are more headaches to the government in this plan to be precise. Firstly, for people to adopt electric vehicles, they need to be cheap and for those to be manufactured cheap, the government has to provide subsidies to battery makers. They will also have to bend a bit for people to adopt it and all this costs money. Think about it, even if people adopt electric vehicles, where will they go for electricity? India is nowhere near self-sufficient when it comes to manufacturing the electricity it needs.

The comes another problem, what are other revenue generating options for the government if they do not get taxes from selling fuel and taxing vehicles to ply on the road? Will they end up increasing price of electricity that might prove detrimental to their plans? Or will they tax people more?

And one more thing. If the government increases electricity generation, won’t they pollute the environment more? Because, at least one new coal plant will be opened for meeting the needs and we all know how that will work out. One has to provide people with a better solution before imposing such plans. As always, I am not against change. But when it affects the masses, every possible factor should be carefully considered.

There is a famous saying, “There is no public money, there is only taxpayers’ money.” I am not saying that the government will not come up with solutions for all the problems my puny brain could think of. I am saying the government will not come up with solutions for the problems raised above in a day.

It is a long process, one which has transition at its core. Telling people to sod off and buy EVs is not the right way. Instead, provide them with an electric vehicle that has the same capability of IC-engined ones and importantly, at the same price. People will choose EVs because they do not have to write their wealth off buying petrol. It is that simple.

Praveen Kumar S