Signalling a strong intent to de-congest Indian cities, cut the crude oil import bill and reduce pollution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to auto industry leaders from the country and abroad and other stakeholders to work on a holistic mobility solution that gives preference to public transport over private ownership. “We should champion the idea of 'clean kilometres',” he said.
Given India’s low car penetration, the country offers a unique opportunity to come up with a sustainable solution which can be emulated by others.
Congestion-free mobility was critical to check economic and environmental costs of congestion. The Indian economy was the world’s fastest growing major economy that was building 100 smart cities and constructing roads, airports, rail lines and ports at a greater pace, the Prime Minister (PM) said at the Global Mobility Summit MOVE.
Modi’s push towards sustainable urban mobility comes amid India’s soaring fuel bill, increasing congestion in metros and the need to reduce pollution. India is home to nine of ten most polluted cities in the world.
The PM said charged mobility was the way forward and the government wanted to drive investments across the value chain — from batteries to smart charging to electric vehicle manufacturing. “We need to ensure that public transport is preferred to private modes of travel. The Internet-enabled Connected Sharing Economy is emerging as the fulcrum of mobility,” he said.
Mobility, he said, is a key driver of the economy. “Better mobility reduces the burden of travel and transportation, and can boost economic growth. It is already a major employer and can create the next generation of jobs,” said the PM.
Organised by government think-tank NITI Aayog, the two-day summit which started on Friday saw the participation of over 2,200 people including global chief executive officers of auto companies, academia, secretaries of various state governments, etc.
India needs to look at a combination of technologies including hybrid, electric and hydrogen, said R C Bhargava, non-executive chairman at Maruti Suzuki India, at a panel discussion.
To de-congest Delhi and Mumbai, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said his ministry was working towards setting up a special roadway or a separate lane on national highways to allow only electric vehicles. The requisite infrastructure for the electric buses and cars would be put in place by the government, he said.
Anand Mahindra, executive chairman, Mahindra Group, proposed creation of a multi-modal, integrated digital application that can allow an average Indian to seamlessly travel from one part of the country to another. Even as the delegates were impressed by the PM’s vision of a clean, non-congested India based on the 7 Cs — common, connected, convenient, congestion-free, charged, clean, cutting-edge, they said the intent needs to be a backed by a strong policy framework. In that sense, it was disappointing that the PM didn’t announce the much-anticipated FAME-II policy.
“We expected a lot more,” said one of the attendees. “Perhaps the PM didn’t want to limit the scope of a subject as vast as mobility by announcing a policy that incentivises a particular technology,” said a top official at another automaker.