Column: Sprightly Kerala

Mar 06 2014, 02:46 IST
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SummaryThe state outranks others when it comes to mobility of people

If nations were ranked by increase in the mobility of their population in the last couple of decades, India would possibly rank somewhere on the top. We built roads that improved mobility within and between cities during the late-1990s. These roads, though, were soon swamped with vehicles that polluted the atmosphere with soot, honks and abuses and reduced mobility. But, then came cheap air travel, followed by mobile phones and an ubiquitous Internet. Mobility improved dramatically. Indians now wade through jammed roads to board full flights and talk into their phones till the flight-attendants are driven crazy being polite.

Public investments in infrastructure, to support the potential for mobility, have been woefully short of the requirements. And, even in places where investments have been made they are often of dubious quality. Imagine a brand-new airport being flooded because of rainfall! And, a clean, efficient, superfast train connecting the airport to the heart of the city being forced to crawl at half its potential speed within months of its launch! Delhi offers you both.

But, Delhi is the most mobile state in the country. Its Indira Gandhi International airport is the busiest in the country with a traffic of 34 million passengers in 2012-13. Mumbai comes next with a traffic of 30 million passengers. The rest don't even have half this traffic. Delhi also has the highest teledensity—91%, according to the Census 2011 data.

An appropriate measure of the air travel mobility of a region would be the number of air passengers per million population. However, the available statistics need to be used with some caveats as the mobility could be of outsiders into the region as tourists rather than the local population being mobile. For example, Andaman & Nicobar has a mobility of 1.3 million per million population and Goa has an even better 1.9 million air passengers per million population. The natives of the island would probably not be amused and the Goans may raise a toast to the business prospects of this traffic. But, both are not as mobile as the data suggests. At least not as mobile as is evident at international airports.

Typically, at a Western international airport, one sees people from West Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Bengalis and Gujaratis are probably the most tourism-oriented people among us. People from the South are more likely to be found as professionals working overseas, or their families visiting

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