Fantasy world

Industry sells us a nightmare packaged in a dream world of glitzy cars

Published: Friday 15 February 2002

As we have often said before, the Indian automobile industry has come of age. But in terms of environmental management, even the giants prefer to remain greenhorns. This is reflected in the last auto fair that took place in the capital. Ostensibly, they talked about "going green". Yet none of the participating companies appeared to have taken that extra stride. The focus was on new and fancy models. There was virtually no effort to sell us the value for fuel or emission efficiency in our vehicles.

Companies are aware that the automobile industry is one of the most poorly regulated sectors in the country. And they have used every lacuna in the law to their advantage. To a large extent they have been helped in their ignoble cause by the Union government, which has turned a blind eye to the increasing vehicular fleet and the resulting pollution. Multinationals dump obsolete technology with impunity and the bumpy ride of a vehicle is steeped in pollution with hardly any shock absorbers.

The automobile industry only prefers to make cosmetic changes for visible and immediate results, spend on introducing snazzier models and just meet the weak emission norms rather than strike at the heart of the problem -- the engine of their vehicle. The auto industry refuses to invest in research and development of technology that suits the Indian conditions. They do not lack the resources to do so, only commitment. In tandem are multinationals, which have conducted research but refuse to share the fruits of it in India. Their excuse: poor fuel quality and lack of consumer purchasing power.

At this auto fair, as much as the last, concern for fuel efficiency and environment, remained peripheral. "Greenwash" was evident but very superficial. We have seen little change in the way this industry does business so that it incorporates the concern for clean air by leapfrogging to new and better technologies and pushing for public interest and not private profit. More cars are not the answer. They are the problem.

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