Nitin Gadkari is indeed riding high with the reported excellent rating that he has got for his work in the road transport ministry at the time of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle and in general from experts and the media.
He is believed to have shot down the plan to place him in charge of all forms of transport including the Railways, expressing a preference for concentrating all attention on road transport. His recent warning to makers of petrol and diesel vehicles, exhorting them to make way for electric power-trains and engines running on other fuel variants such as ethanol and bio-fuels is significant indeed.
With the government’s larger plan of having only electric vehicles by 2030, he has declared that he will ‘bulldoze’ his way on this. ‘I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze,’ he thundered. The prime motivation is to reduce imports and curb pollution, Gadkari said at the annual convention of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). According to the road transport and highways Minister, a Cabinet note on electric vehicles is ready that will take care of charging stations.
If Gadkari’s resolve remains undiminished and he continues in this portfolio, this dynamo of change can bring this transformation about and the basic usefulness of such a policy is undoubted.
Gadkari said he wants the pace of car sales in India to slow down as growth in vehicle sales, particularly those running on diesel, is choking roads and causing increased pollution. ‘You may not like it, but I wish it from my heart that your growth should be less. If this growth continues, I will need to add one more lane to national highways, which will cost a whopping Rs 80,000 crore,’ Gadkari told stunned representatives of the car industry.
He hit the nail on the head when he said: ‘There are too many cars, which is also leading to parking problems. I think the car industry should go in for finding parking solutions too, and look at an integrated approach.’ He added that to cut down on the excessive use of cars, especially in smaller towns the government is planning to come out with a platform or an app – on the lines of Uber and Ola – that would facilitate the use of two-wheelers as taxis. ‘If only one person needs to travel, why should he use a car?’ he asked.
Gadkari implored carmakers to do research. He pointed out that first when he urged them to switch to electric vehicles, they said battery is costly. Claiming that now the batteries cost 40 per cent less and the price would come down further on mass production, he was categorical that the future belonged to electric cars, buses, taxis and bikes.
The Minister pointed out that the petroleum products import bill stood at a huge Rs 7 lakh crore per annum which was a big drain on the economy. Gadkari’s drive and confidence are indeed exemplary. But he must factor in the sloth in the system and the antics of vested interests.