India Insight

Gridlocked in the rush to grow

Newspapers have delighted in reporting a 100km traffic jam outside Beijing could last until mid-September. Road construction is the immediate cause for the gridlock, which stretches as far as Inner Mongolia, Chinese officials have said.

Vehicles move slowly during morning rush hour in Hyderabad October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Krishnendu HalderFor Indian commuters battling a near-daily gridlock in all the big cities, this is an ominous sign of things to come.

India is adding vehicles at an unprecedented pace, with July clocking the highest car sales on record.

China has already overtaken the United States as the biggest auto market, and Indians are splashing out on cars across segments, from the humble Nano to the uber luxury Jaguar sedan.

But India, despite its stated goal of spending some $500 billion in the five years to March 2012 and double that sum over the next five-year period, has failed to build roads to keep up.

Mumbai Holiday on a Vespa?

Think Vespa, and images of Audrey Hepburn and rides down cobble-stoned streets immediately come to mind.

How about families of four riding precariously on the choked streets of Mumbai or Delhi?

Piaggio, the Italian vehicle maker that has made the Vespa since just after World War II, has made a big success of its three-wheeler auto rickshaws and commercial vehicles in India, and intends to relaunch the iconic brand here soon.

Indian dilemma — To Nano or not to Nano

I was stuck in a traffic jam on one of New Delhi’s busiest roads, taking in the sights and smells of vehicles idling in all directions, when my cab driver turned to me and asked — “Are you going to buy the Tata Nano?”

It’s a question thrown at me several times over the past few months and each time the answer has been “No”.

Tata Motors is launching the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, on March 23. Bookings open in the second week of April and the 100,000-rupee car is slated to hit Indian roads before July.

Taking the red bus home: a joyride in New Delhi

Riding home in the air-conditioned comfort of a gleaming red bus, I find it hard to believe I am travelling in New Delhi.

busnew.jpgSqueaky-clean seats, no crowds jostling for room, automatic doors and huge windows offering panoramic views of the bustling streets — it’s a far cry from the torture I have endured in the past.

Buses in India’s capital are not known for being commuter-friendly. The state-owned ones are mostly rickety slowcoaches while the privately operated Blue Line buses zigzag their way through traffic, dangerously negotiating bends and racing each other in a bid to pick up passengers.