CHURUMURI POLL: Should SUVs be banned?

It’s no exaggeration to conclude that Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh has become the pencil in the hands of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for the “course correction” from the unidimensional, growth-at-all-costs approach that the Manmohan Singh government had embarked upon in the first year of UPA-II.

After summarily giving the short shrift to tribals while pursuing India’s “gravest internal security threat”, the hand-brake has been suddenly applied. Anil Agarwal‘s Vedanta project has been shown the door. The nation’s biggest FDI investment, Posco, is hanging in the balance. Searching questions have been asked of the New Bombay airport project. Etc.

Jairam Ramesh has now been emboldened to stick it into sport utility vehicles (SUVs), the gigantic off-roaders whose passengers sit high enough to comfortably piss into passing cars. Ramesh says the use of SUVs is “criminal” and that the diesel-guzzlers of the rich were eating up the fuel subsidies meant for the poor.

Not surprisingly, environmentalists have cheered the thundering slap, but the auto industry has contested Ramesh’s claims and the German ambassador in India has jumped into the frame and said: “Deutsch Automobilsektor hat “herausragende Kompetenz” in der Motorenentwicklung und verwendet moderne Technologie, um Verbrauch und Emissionen reduzieren.

Questions: Is Ramesh right about SUVs or is he barking up the wrong tree? Does he also object to the use of SUVs by “future former prime minister of India” Rahul Gandhi, during his Bharat Yatra, or is he only irritated by the sight of lesser mortals enjoying the pleasure of scaring smaller cars? Should there be alternate pricing of diesel for SUVs or should they be taken off the road altogether?

Photograph: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi atop an SUV during his visit to West Bengal in September 2010 (courtesy: The Telegraph, Calcutta)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

33 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: Should SUVs be banned?”

  1. karihaida Says:

    Is Mr Ramesh asking madam and the prince to travel by bus ? Hmm…

    Now look for a new license system for buying diesel… may be they will make all diesel car owners stand in queue for buying diesel, with their new ‘ration cards’ in hand :) or there might be a sudden increase in the population of farmers in cities :)

    Oh the joys of license raj.. How long before we are back to the days of license for radio, cycle.

    thankyou madam

  2. Shrinidhi Hande Says:

    POint 1: “`BMWs, Benzs and Hondas”, not the farmers. ….” Jairam knows nothing much about SUVs. Honda has no diesel cars

    Point 2: If the roads were decent and free from deep potholes and oversized speedbreakers, half of the suv buyers would have preferred normal cars. Most of indian roads are such that only SUVs can ensure comfortable ride

    Why speak only of subsidy to diesel and not talk of over taxation on petrol? Make petrol as cheap as diesel and let us see what people prefer…

    **

    Why is the govt making Toyota prius and Honda Civic hydrid unaffordably expensive by imposing import duty? why not make such cars more affordable?

  3. Pseudo Pseudo Says:

    He is right and wrong. The subsidy for diesel is the culprit here and not the SUVs. This subsidy drives down the overall cost of ownership and hence makes the SUVs more attractive than they actually are.

    Thus the subsidy on diesel should go. It may not be politically feasible though. In that case a differential pricing structure should kick in for SUVs that accounts for potential savings in future via lower fuel bills. Somewhere they have to pay for the social cost. But one should be careful in banishing the SUVs altogether. That would be a stupid thing to do.

  4. twistleton Says:

    He is right about the SUVs, especially since only people with small brains ride big cars on small roads.

    Need not ban them outright but can curtail the use by limiting the minimum number of people an SUV can be seen ferrying around.

    Seriously have you seen puny people lording it on the roads sitting all alone in their monster cars with only their eyebrows visible above the steering wheel? That is just unnecessary, it isn’t like you can put the car through its paces either, in today’s traffic, you’re lucky if you reach fourth gear.

    But lying deeper at the heart of this debate is that fundamental question of morality – can the rich flaunt their wealth, and waste resources just because they can; in this age of perpetual scarcity???

    Whatever the reasons for the reigning in of the development mania , as long as it happens, right?

  5. CS Says:

    Churumuri,

    In case of cow slaughter ban, you argued that one should be free to eat whatever they want. Fair enough. Why not apply the same argument here? One should be free to ride whichever vehicle they want?

  6. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    How about Jairamesha fights against the “criminal” excessive use of fertilizers on our lands that have made them almost barren? While air pollution is “sexy”, water and food pollution are not (and affect people far more). Blame the huge subsidies on fertilizers for those. But no, that would be anti-farmer, and no one has the balls to stand up to the farmer votebank in this country.

  7. C Says:

    @CS: Presumably because eating what you want only goes against so-called Hindu ‘values’, while using an SUV uses 3x as much diesel as a normal car and actually materially affects other people – not to mention the congestion on small roads.

  8. Goldstar Says:

    Why ban? Why not tax heavily?

  9. div Says:

    I dont like this business of banning useful stuff. Whether we like it or not, SUVs are required for some terrains and some situations. If you want to ban something, ban Formula one racing! Make sure that subsidies are not misused.

  10. Shrinidhi Hande Says:

    Watch this video- you’re more likely to be alive in an SUV than an ordinary car, during a crash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXeKSDpFjlg

  11. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Jairam Ramesh is an idiot!

    One mans ‘environmental’ meat is the nation’s ‘industrial progress’ poison!

    JR is the world’s leading Luddite and he should be given Devegowda-Rathna medal.

  12. twistleton Says:

    @DB

    SUVs and industrial progress… Don’t really see the connection here mate.

    If industrial progress is what you want, then people in industrialized countries prefer to ride the humble bi-cycle, unless they are a fuel guzzling nation like the US. And everyone knows what THEY did to ensure unlimited supply of fossil fuels.

    In JR’s defence, it is not ‘use’ he’s talking about, it is ‘abuse’. We Indians don’t seem to know the difference.

  13. vindy Says:

    agree with goldstar, SUV needs to be taxed like the US gas guzzler tax

  14. DailyBread Says:

    >If industrial progress is what you want, then people in industrialized countries prefer to ride the humble bi-cycle.

    On the contrary poor countries including India are the biggest users of public transport, bi-cycles and non mechanized transport(i.e. walking). Once in a while astroturf commentators sholud look at per capita car ownership & per capita energy consumption in industraliazed countries. Or for a change find out per capita ownership of SUVs in India.

    PS: Usual disclaimers do not apply…

  15. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Twisty,

    A few thousand SUVs don’t matter, mate. We should be worried about too many diesel-guzzling vehicles in India.

    GK3S

    You give too much credit to Ramesha. Many farmers have quietly switched onto natural fertilizers. I object to the posturing by Ramesha. In fact if we go back in time I am sure all our lands we live on today were once tribal lands and shit like that. That idiot made his name in getting UPA1 and UPA2 but frankly he is only a veggie Devegowda with a college education:)

  16. karihaida Says:

    @Shrinidhi Hande,
    you are much more likely to be safer in a Tata 407/608 LCV (which is cheaper than an SUV)

    And for the “tax it heavily” folks, you want to tax/ban a VW turbo diesel also? :)

    It will be interesting to see what the gov’t will do when crude hits 90

  17. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Blessed Treasure Cauldron!

    You are much safer if you simply don’t venture outside your house:)

  18. babuds Says:

    Jairam Ramesh is right. We should gradually ban 4-wheelers to reduce our carbon print. The first step in this direction should be taken by our parliamentarians. All those MPs in the age group of 40 to 60 should be given bicycles to pedal their way to parliament. The younger MPs should be given cycle rikshaws, so that they can bring the MPs above 60 to the parliament.

  19. twistleton Says:

    @Daily Bread

    The “per-capita argument” has become obsolete. Per capita is an accident of history :D :D

    On a more serious note, a huge population is more of a curse than a blessing. Our total emissions will still increase, and we should curb them not in response to some glitzy global conference, but in response to the ultimate instinct of self-preservation.

    Industrial growth however coveted cannot be done in a hurry. So far it has only succeeded in alienating people and damaging our resources.

    In a way a low per-capita consumption of SUVs is not necessarily a good thing. The right to pollute should belong to all; otherwise we are unjust even in our sins…

  20. srivaid Says:

    Make public transport easily accessible and more attractive than driving on the streets and people will automatically switch to using that. banning SUVs is not a solution. If you go up north to the foothills of the Himalayas these are the only form of public transport there, ferrying people around.

    Fuel is already expensive, so it is mostly a very small percentage that can afford to go around in SUVs. Plus parking and traffic woes will also take their toll on them. Its no surprise that India has such a huge market for smaller cars which are judged heavily by their fuel efficiency. Blanket bans does not make any sense. There are other places where he should be looking, like efficient public transport which can make people shift from driving every day. Not only is it good for the environment, it will also help ease traffic issues and the necessity to go around building huge flyovers which are underutilsed except for 4-5 hours a day, and mot importantly will lead to stress-free days for all those who struggle in traffic and in the rains.

  21. DailyBread Says:

    @Twistleton,

    Dont understand what you are trying to say. The liberal gobbledygook of hingaadra hyanga, hangaadra hyanga will not produce any workable solutions. Please tell us in yes or no

    1. Should people own personal mechanized transport of their choice
    2. Does India require industrial growth.

    *****
    @Srivaid

    >people will automatically switch to using that.

    IMO it will not happen in the near future, Bangalore/Delhis are not Singapore/Londons. You have to factor in convineince, aspiration, status and income growths of class of people who use public transport.

  22. twistleton Says:

    @Daily Bread
    for an unassuming name you seem to be assuming a lot of things.

    You seem to be spewing all of the conventional understanding of development people have, the kind that can only be seen and heard not felt.

    What if we fix development on parameters other than industrial growth? In the future, the only countries to be considered developed will be ones that can provide its people food security and Disaster mitigation and management. The world is no longer pristine and abundant.

    It is not generally advisable to view things in black and white – but yes, in a socialist democracy, people should be DISCOURAGED (not banned, cannot mess with free will :)) from owning any mode of trasport they want, not because of any idiotic moral reason, but because it is simple not possible.

    To answer your second question there can be two modes of industrial progress – one is the plantation mode – where the industry is resource-intensive, narrow in its scope and wide in its magnitude – like the monoculture of a plantation, it will soon run the earth dry.

    The second mode can be likened to organic farming -native species, diversification, re-use and recycle, natural components, labour intensive (for the population), and also the revival of traditional daily commodities that are region-specific (less transportation, less SUVs :))

    No need to repeat the mistakes of the Great Ugly West, is there?

    Am I giving you a clue?

  23. DailyBread Says:

    Twistleton

    > The world is no longer pristine and abundant….

    This IMO is a jargon spewing jholawals conspiracy to prevent poor from joining the ranks of middle class

    >because it is simple not possible

    You should listen to Annavara song – Kailaagadu Endu

    >Organic farming – native species, etc. etc.

    This is what my great grandfather and people in his village were doing for decades till my grandfather decided to send his kids to the nearest town to learn maths & history. But you folks used to ridicule my ancestors…

    >No need to repeat the mistake of the Great Ugly West, is there?

    Says who? Do you think my countrymen will listen to a western fictional character?

    >Am I giving you a clue?

    Thanks, but no thanks…

  24. mounaprasad Says:

    I think if the Queen and the Prince only are riding SUV’s it should be OK for JRamesh…however it is not for the mere mortals like us..

    I remember someone donated Rajiv Gandhi a Saab SUV for his election campaign, when owning a Maruti car was considered a luxury…so much for double standards..

  25. twistleton Says:

    @Daily Bread

    Let’s agree to disagree then mate, as you seem to be arguing more for the sake of arguement, and haven’t read what i’ve written with too much attention, since (unbelievably) we happen to think alike on certain aspects, but no worries :D

    A conspiracy theorist is never happy, consider that fair warning :D

  26. twistleton Says:

    One question i do have for you. Do you equate an SUV with modernity??

  27. Tanveer Says:

    This is a totally absurd argument. The SUV owners pay huge reg taxes to have these SUV’s apart from the high cost of the vehicle itself.

    It does’nt make sense, when we debate whether they should use them or not. It is a disparity if you compare it with a Nano or an Alto. Yet, we should not be so narrow minded as to invite double taxation(hiking fuel cost,etc) on SUV users.

  28. DailyBread Says:

    Twistleton,

    >haven’t read what i’ve written with too much attention

    There is no need to pay any attention to boilerplate whining from limousine liberals/jholawalas. You are not the target of my gyaan, through you I am trying to address a larger audience.

    >A conspiracy theorist is never happy, consider that fair warning

    QED, I was right about jargon spewing machines…

  29. twistleton Says:

    Daily,

    :D don’t eat me, i can assure you i am not a jholowala, limo-riding or otherwise, what have you got against them anyway (just curiosity)

    As for jargon spewing machines, my friend, you beat me hollow! :D

    Anyway, the argument reached “pointless” levels long ago, people will get bored, i suggest we abandon it, in fact the last word will be yours.

    so much spleen can’t be good for you :) take it easy

  30. DailyBread Says:

    twistleton,

    I had to jump in and call you out because of this uber jholawala wisdom. Enjoy:))

    >especially since only people with small brains ride big cars on small roads.
    >curtail the use by limiting the minimum number of people an SUV can be seen ferrying around.
    >seen puny people lording it on the roads sitting all alone in their monster cars with only their eyebrows visible above the steering wheel?
    >But lying deeper at the heart of this debate is that fundamental question of morality – can the rich flaunt their wealth, and waste resources
    >just because they can; in this age of perpetual scarcity???
    >Whatever the reasons for the reigning in of the development mania , as long as it happens, right?
    >If industrial progress is what you want, then people in industrialized countries prefer to ride the humble bi-cycle
    >And everyone knows what THEY did to ensure unlimited supply of fossil fuels.
    >a huge population is more of a curse than a blessing.
    >conventional understanding of development people have, the kind that can only be seen and heard not felt.
    >fix development on parameters other than industrial growth
    >only countries to be considered developed will be ones that can provide its people food security and Disaster mitigation and management.
    >The world is no longer pristine and abundant
    >like the monoculture of a plantation, it will soon run the earth dry.
    >The second mode can be likened to organic farming
    >repeat the mistakes of the Great Ugly West

    I am done with this board, when I am gone please dont indulge in scaremongering ;-)

  31. DailyBread Says:

    @twistleton,

    Sorry forgot to ansewr this…..

    >One question i do have for you. Do you equate an SUV with modernity??

    I equate an SUV in India with food on the table for couple of families. If I am not wrong, every additional SUV sold/manufatctured in India creates few jobs…..

  32. twistleton Says:

    http://swiharts.com/SUV/environmental/

    the fabled west that nobody believes in :)

  33. srivaid Says:

    2Dailybread:
    IMO it will not happen in the near future, Bangalore/Delhis are not Singapore/Londons. You have to factor in convineince, aspiration, status and income growths of class of people who use public transport.

    I can factor in convenience. I can’t understand why aspiration will come in the way of using public transport to get somewhere. Income growth and status has nothing to do with people using public transport if its available. Do you think its more high status to sit and sweat in traffic? Most people would happily switch to using public transport and spend that time doing something productive. People in Delhi are happy with the metro and are not really snubbing it as something not of their status or aspiration.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: