At a recent conference on sustainable urban transportation in
Delhi, a senior bureaucrat lamented that many people now owned two
or three cars, and if something was not done to stop the influx of
private vehicles into our cities, life would become intolerable.
A police officer was really worried that the introduction of
Tata’s ‘One Lakh Car’ would make his job intolerable. And now, we
hear that some officials in Mumbai would like to bar the entry of
the One Lakh Car so that the city does not get choked.
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We should, indeed, be worried about the ill effects of the
increasing use of personal vehicles in our cities as they harm our
health in a number of ways.
To understand the real issues here, let us first look at the
facts and numbers. According to the Census of India, less than 20
per cent of families own cars in rich cities like Delhi, Mumbai and
The National Council of Applied Economic Research estimates that
only families that earn more than Rs10 lakh a year own one car per
family on an average. This is the situation that prevailed in cities
like London, Paris and New York more than 50 years ago.
At present, car ownership per person in Singapore and London is
more than that in Delhi by two and five times respectively.
Even road space availability in those cities is about the same as
our cities. Therefore, car ownership rates in our cities are quite
low by international standards.
The second issue concerns restricting the registration of cars in
our cities. It is easier said than done. Firstly, who should not be
allowed to register a car?