In 2014, Delhi’s air was found by the WHO to be the most polluted of any big city in the world. (If you thought that was bad, remember that they’re only talking about big cities. There are smaller cities in India with air that’s even more polluted, like Gwalior and Raipur.)
So the government in its infinite reactionary wisdom decided to do what it does best: ban something. They made you actually memorize the number plate of your car, so that you’d know (based on whether it’s odd or even) if you could actually use it that day or not allowed to. To give them some credit, it did marginally work.
But let’s face it: with the ever increasing number of cars on the roads, this is only going to work temporarily before pollution levels rise again. There is an obvious solution to this; drive more electric and environmentally friendly cars, right? However, this is not as easy as it sounds in India.
Unless a manufacturer completely makes its cars in India, or at the very least assembles them here, they have to pay a hefty amount in taxes to the government. (If you’re wondering how much, the price more than doubles by the time it’s on our roads, sometimes by a factor of 2.5, depending on the type of car.) This was all done to incentivise manufacturers to make more of their cars here, and provide employment to more Indians as a result.
While this is a slightly good thing for our economy (or say, some Swiss bank account’s balance), it means that all the leading manufacturers of electric cars like Tesla, Nissan, GM among others can’t feasibly sell their cars here; they would simply be too expensive after taxation. Not only does this mean that they aren’t looking at the Indian market at all, but also that they aren’t designing any products with it in mind.
It’s high time that the government updated its taxation laws to keep up with the needs of the country; you simply can’t be taxing an eco-friendly electric car the same amount as a fuel-munching sports car simply because they’re both completely imported. The environment won’t and can’t keep up.
There are some positive signs though. Recently as part of the F.A.M.E. policy (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of hybrid and Electric vehicles), the country’s only major commercial electric vehicle (Mahindra’s e2O) was finally made more affordable by almost a lakh of rupees. If this is a sign of things to come, one can only hope that soon “achhe din zaroor aayenge”.
Image: Nissan Leaf