When the famous author of "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" - Thomas L. Friedman asks us(Indians) not to follow the Americans, my interest in his regular weekly column article on New York Times notched up one or two times higher. Read the full article at No, No, No, Don't follow Us. To my surprise, he was using the quote to look at the infrastructure problems that $2500 car by TATA Motors would bring to the limelight. He wants an India that makes itself the leader in both cheap cars and clean mass mobility resulting in an India that will be healthier and wealthier. The article echoes Ms. Sunita Narain who wants the Indian government to tax this cheap car heavily so that a better public transit system could be put in place(Taxing will remove the competitiveness of the whole project in one stroke!!!). He uses the example of Indian mobile industry that innovated to bring one of the world's cheapest telephone system of the world.
But I beg to differ because of the understanding of the mentality of the Indian political system which caters only to the most pressing problem in a efficient manner. Indian Politicians generally choose to innovate or change them self only when they have their backs to the wall [Yeah! Necessity is the mother of the invention] and culturally not known to have a future orientation regarding the present problems.
What I believe?
$2500 car rather than removing the need for a well maintained, efficient, cheap mass transit system would actually become the major turning point that would result in a better mass transit system suited for the Indian people(if the $2500 car became successful as predicted). The impact this car would be having in the rural and semi-urban cities of India like Tirunelveli, Indore, etc.. would be much greater than its impact on the metropolitan cities. And the majority of India lives on this rural and semi-urban cities. $2500 car would make the infrastrucutre shortage in India a comman man's problem from a industry's problem, thus making it a electoral issue, increasing the likelihood of an early solution.
Thomas L Friedman is talking from a narrow perspective of places he has visited like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, etc. . These cities already have a mass transit system in place(though not a efficient one). And his perspective does not include other places like Indore, Pune, etc.. where mass transit system even if present is negligible and no government can create one in its life time. Expected a better researched article from the author of such calibre. :(