Suddenly the Indian auto industry is the whipping boy for
the Government. Road Transport Minister
Nitin Gadkari told a stunned gathering of leaders from the Indian auto industry
that he would ensure that petrol and diesel vehicles in India make way for
electric powertrains and engines running
on bio fuels and that we would “bulldoze” the players...and “petrol
diesel banaane walo kaa band baajaa bajaana hai” (I will take to task
the makers of petrol and diesel vehicles).
Gadkari was speaking at the 57th Annual Convention of the
Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) in New Delhi.
Gadkari’s statement, bordering on rudeness and outright insensitiveness,
took the entire auto industry representatives by surprise. It may be recalled
that the Indian government wants to ensure that only electric vehicles are made
in the country from the year 2030. Instead of elaborating on the ways to
achieve this in a more scientific and practical way, Gadkari merely mentioned
that he wants the pace of car sales in India to slow down as growth in vehicle
sales, especially diesel cars, is choking
roads and causing increased pollution.
Not a word was spoken on the poor quality of roads and
infrastructure in India, whether intra city or inter-city. Rather the Minister
was more interested in gaining some brownie points before a large gathering. “You
may not like it, but I wish from my heart that your growth should be less...”
he said. If this growth continues, he pointed
out that he would need an additional Rs 80,000 crore to build an extra lane to
the existing highways. That argument did not make any sense to the elite
Mr Minister, please remember, the Indian auto industry is
the backbone of the Indian economy and along with the vehicle manufacturers and
ancillary makers, not only contributes significantly to the country’s economic growth
but also directly and indirectly employs millions of people. For a moment, Gadkari
forgot that he was addressing an elite forum and not an election rally where
lakhs of uneducated and poor people are ferried by his political party.
Citing one apparently poor example, he said, “Even my chef
comes in a car. There are too many cars, which is also leading to parking
problems.” He also said his government is planning to come out with an app on
the lines of Uber and Ola that would facilitate the use of two wheelers as
taxi. “If only one person needs to travel, why should he use a car?” he
asked. Well said, Mr Minister. But what
about the scores of politicians who travel with dozens of cars in a convoy? The
government may have done away with the red beacon light, but the convoy of cars
And most important, if the Minister is so keen to adopt
electric vehicles, then why is he not seen travelling in a smart looking
Mahindra e2O? Gadkari’s speech at the annual convention bordered mostly on threats
and not on practical solutions. Several Industry representatives that Motown
India spoke to were willing to embrace electric vehicles. But it is for the
government to show them a solid roadmap that was practical to follow, they said.
With union elections due in 2019, and with the charisma of the ruling party
waning, would a new government and new Minister continue to browbeat the auto
industry or will he or she be reasonable enough to show the right way to the
Indian auto industry for progress and growth? Only time will tell.
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