With almost 15 crore vehicles using national highways across India, a 10-minute idling per vehicle at toll booths and octroi posts result in a loss of about Rs1,272 crore everyday
I have always enjoyed driving, having learnt to drive at a young age of 12, with a pillow on the sofa seat of a Mark-I Ambassador way back in 1984.
In between the six cars that my dad and me have owned since 1984, I have covered almost 5 lakh plus kms on Indian roads, covering large parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. The trigger to this love for driving being a 1988 drive that my father did with a co-driver from Surat to Hoshiarpur in Punjab, in an Maruti 800, in two days flat , and the stories I heard from him.
Also having driven almost 2,000 miles in the US from New York to Washington, New York to Pennsylvania, and multiple short trips from New Jersey to Delaware and Atlantic city, and having being driven around In Japan and UK , I can contrast the experiences while driving long distances in India compared with the advanced world.
However, what triggered this article is the fact that, a promise to children in my family to treat them royally, post their 9+ CGPA scores made me plan a drive from Noida to Jaipur, Mount Abu and Udaipur, and the stark contrast in driving experiences within India. Some observations, and maybe with some luck this will reach the powers to be to ponder about the challenges and the resultant wastage in fuel, price rise, pollution, stress , wear and tear etc.
A quick illustration of the wastage before I get down to the business of pointing out the issues and possible solutions:
Registered Vehicles in India as of 31st Mar 2012 * ( in crore)
Idling Cost p/min (in Rs) **
Total wastage per day @10 minutes of idling per vehicle
There are almost 273 tolls as per the NHAI site. There are many other toll plazas in remote areas where toll is collected manually, with printed slips. To try and untangle the mess, we need to start from the toll plazas.
Interlink all NHAI tolls enabling usage of a single smart card 'INDIA-Pass', which works across all toll plazas in the country
Ensure that this smart card, named “INDIA-Pass” or 'i-Pass' is also compatible with metro services, trains and bus stations at a future date and time of choosing thereby encouraging widespread usage
All private, state transport buses, and trucks ( almost one crore in numbers ) to necessarily have these smart cards to breeze through the toll plazas, without holding up traffic
Incentivize smart card, tag users by lower toll fares as against cash payments
Compulsory road survey of state and national highways every two months ,
reporting any damages immediately and rectifying the same within a month
Road projects to be given only to well known Infra companies, and be held responsible for certain minimum life of these roads
Every road Project to have a sacrosanct deadline, with heavy penalties for non performance
Road Ministry to work with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to get all relevant clearances. Roads projects should be declared as of National Importance brooking no opposition
Use the latest polymer and concrete technologies as appropriate depending on terrain and weather, which may be costly initially but lower maintenance costs and longer life
Enforce and check overloading of trucks, which damages the roads and reduces the life of roads
Plan better roads, truck bays, parking for trucks before Toll Plazas or Octroi Posts so that heavy vehicles like trucks, buses do no spill over the roads blocking highways by hap hazard parkings
Finally the soul of any change for improvement of processes is the ease of compliance and cost of compliance. If we keep the cost of compliance low, and penalties exorbitant, I am sure we can make a change to the way the State and National Highways look and feel today.
(Amit Gupta is an Economics graduate and holds an Executive PG Diploma in International Business. He works as a Senior Manager for Strategy Consulting with a captive of an insurance MNC based in Noida)
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