That India’s roads are getting more congested by the day is obvious, but the solutions being talked of completely miss the point. Urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu said, perhaps drawing upon the experience of a few cities globally, that the government was considering a proposal to allow people to buy cars only if they could show proof of adequate parking space. Why the government should look at such a drastic solution is not clear since, so far, few other solutions have been tried. These could include, for instance, converting certain roads to one-way routes in peak hours, removing traffic signals to ensure smooth traffic flows, building flyovers and even dramatically hiking parking charges in certain districts during office hours. Indeed, as the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has been arguing for years, the government is actually working at cross purposes since it should be lowering taxes on buses which carry a lot more people and are more environment-friendly—according to CSE, a car user pays 9 times less road tax than a bus operator, and that’s when a bus carries 1,000 passengers every day as compared to a car that carries just 1-2 passengers per day. Indeed, if the quality of public transport improves, chances are more people will move away from using cars to commute every day—yet, it is only in a handful of cities that dedicated bus lanes have been pushed with the same vigour that metros have been though it is clear such lanes are a more economically viable solution.
What’s also not clear is how the plan to link parking spaces to new car purchases is to work. Apart from landlords whose houses have some space to park cars, who is to give out certificates showing proof of parking space? Most cars are, in any case, parked on the road, on public land. If the government is serious about the proposal, it needs to work on ensuring no cars are allowed to park on public land, that dedicated car parks are constructed in and around each colony; alternatively, RWAs have to be given control of public spaces and these have to be auctioned off or reserved for individuals in some way. Once this is done, does it create land rights in some way, and can these be traded? Apart from being complicated, it is a long-drawn messy solution that the government is looking at—when the easier solutions have not even been tried, it is unfortunate that a half-baked plan is even under consideration.