Ratan Tata, the scion of a prominent business family of
There was no stopping this determined man whose name has been touted by a TV channel for Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the country. He mobilised scientists and engineers to help him realise his dream. After continuous devoted work, his team of researchers could bring in the model of ‘people’s car’, named Nano. It may be very small, but it will go a long way to make the life of an ordinary middle class family more comfortable and safe. To quote
It went on to describe the Nano car as “a cute, short thing, with four doors, tiny wheels placed out at the four corners of the body and what looked like plenty of room inside. The Nano has just enough space for a briefcase or small bag under the hood. The engine—all two cylinders, 624cc and 33 horsepower of it—is in the back, just like the Volkswagen Beetle of old. The speedometer and other instruments cluster in a central pod in the middle of the dashboard rather than directly in front of the driver, the easier (and cheaper) to offer both left- and right-hand versions when Tata Motors starts exporting the car to Southeast Asia and Africa in a couple of years. The top third of the over-sized headlights act as the turn signals (indicators) and look like cheeky yellow eyebrows above the main lights. It has a top speed of 60 miles per hour.” It will be very economical because it will cover 25 kilometres on just one litre of petrol.
Tata thinks, there may be people who call it a toy, “but if you consider the value proposition I think the car is great.” He hopes, “Nano will help millions of poor people around the world—the “Bottom of the Pyramid” in developing world marketing-speak—switch from two wheels to four.”
The media, both print and electronic, has sung great hymns in the praise of Tata and his innovation. A prominent Hindi daily, owned by the Birlas and edited by a literary writer, is ecstatic and has come out with the headline “Tata ki Nano ne naian hi nahin, dil bhi churaya hai” (Tata’s Nano has stolen not only eyes but heart too). The editor has praised Tata to skies and has exclaimed: what a charisma! Sanjay Dutt, a leading film actor, and Rahul Gandhi, the Congress prince are mesmerized and are eager to acquire it. The editor has taken to task the people who lack enthusiasm in welcoming this great achievement by Tata.
It seems the editor has no knowledge of history. To illustrate this, let us go back to 1719-20 when a British swindler, John Law, lured the Parisian population with his the Mississippi Company, opening before them the prospect of becoming fabulously rich overnight. The crowd that thronged his office was not only much, much bigger than that which came to the exhibition ground in
Tata’s Nano car, in spite of all the praises showered on it, will not run on water or air. It will also require petrol, though the consumption will be lower as compared to other cars. The people switching from two-wheelers to Nano will have to spend more on petrol. Consequently, the total volume of demand for petrol will go up substantially. Indigenous output of crude as proportion of the total volume of crude needed to meet the demand for petrol will go up. Obviously,
If this is so, how will
Speculation in commodities market will further push up the prices. The Government of India has permitted forward trading in agricultural commodities and this will help both domestic and international speculators to manipulate prices and the shadow of the Chicago Commodities will loom large on Indian food grains market. According to the Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, all over the world there was a thirty per cent rise in speculation food grains in 2006.
Nobody doubts that the sale of Nano will increase rapidly and it will make the Tata Motors gather huge profits, yet it will have far reaching implications for the society. Traffic jams will get aggravated because of narrow roads, lack of proper and timely maintenance, encroachments by shopkeepers, mobile vendors, religious outfits and others and gross violations of traffic rules by private commercial vehicles such as buses and lorries. Quite often one finds these commercial vehicles racing on roads or stopping wherever they like to pick up passengers and business. With Nano cars entering the roads, their owners will quite often lose patience when their speed is slowed and they are detained inordinately by traffic jams. It may lead to the exchange of abuses and scuffles, sometimes bloody ones. The incidents of rash and drunken driving have been on the rise and many a life has been lost. There are solid reasons behind this. First, traffic police is in the grip of corruption. Why should not a traffic constable extort when he has got the job after paying a bribe ranging from Rs 3 to 400, 000 and he has to recover this amount and earn something extra? If the person indulging in rash or drunken driving belongs to a wealthy or politically influential family, nobody dares touch him. Look at the notorious BMW case and it will be crystal clear. Second, in
Last year, 15,00,000 new cars came onto roads. In
With the entry of the Nano car, the problem of pollution is bound to get aggravated. Whatever strict norms may be enforced, they cannot be implemented when there is rampant corruption in the enforcement agencies.
Of course, Tata will pander to consumerism and gather huge profits because there is a great scope for increasing the sale of Nano. At present only 12 out of 1,000 Indians own a car as against 765 for every 1,000 Americans. Here a very pertinent question has been raised by The Los Angeles Times (January 18): “What happens if, through a combination of its incredibly rapid economic growth and innovations like the Nano,
The way out in