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Waylaid on the National Highway

THE OTHER DAY I chose to travel from Chennai to Tiruchirapalli. I wanted to go off from being available 24/7; away from the mobile and the Internet and if possible, from the laptop as well.
 
I chose to drive down in Jennifer (ha, that’s my car). It’s not that I haven’t driven down before but I must compliment India. Our highways are slowly becoming a treat.

If you cut out the two breaks totaling 40 minutes, I closed out the journey in 4.5 hours. That included a 10 kilometre stretch that took me all of 30 minutes.  Now if you ask those who know my driving, they would suggest that Schumacher had taken over me. Actually, I would have done it faster; but you see I had to halt every 50 km. That brings me to the crux of my story. Read on:

From my place in Chennai to my place in Tiruchirapalli is about 330 km.  At seven tolls I ended up paying a full Rs 277. A sleeper class train fare is Rs 184; travel by the state bus is Rs 235; by the Omni bus is Rs 580; and air travel is a cool Rs 4326. Now, if your car gives you a mileage of 15 km per litre (don’t know if mine gave that; it normally gives me a miserly 11 in thecity) and if petrol costs-say Rs 72 per litre the journey costs you Rs 1584.

Now Rs 277/- is a good 17 per cent. Pray, why should it be so high? Well, I am not quarrelling, just asking. True,  you don’t get topnotch roads without paying for it. But should the taxes we pay not take care of that? If you say this is travel tax, isn’t the tax on petrol, that by some accounts is 100 per cent of the basic price, not tax enough?

So every time you cross a toll which on average is every 50 km I tell myself: “Hey I am paying only Rs 1 per km” for great roads. And that’s how I retain my sanity. Just in case you didn’t get the drift, I am not complaining. 

As we raced past in Jennifer, scores of cars big, bouncy, boisterous ones whizzed past. It left me wondering as to why in God’s heaven are Indians chasing big cars. Big cars make sense in big roads; as in America. Big gas-guzzling cars make sense in petrol rich countries; as in the Middle East. India is more like Europe. Our roads are narrow. We aren’t a petrol rich nation.It would make sense to have smaller cars. So why aren’t we opting for the small ones? Okay, I forgot; the one thing big is our
population. 

The sheer number of vehicles plying on the roads (I mean the city roads) is tortuous. Given the abysmal levels of road discipline that we have, it is stressful. It’s time that the government initiated steps to have cameras on the roads, have exemplary monetary fines for breach of road rules and impose these without fear or favour. It is disgusting to find a road that can accommodate only one lane on one side, having 4 unofficial tracks running, horns blaring on that side. If our city road travellers do what they do in the other countries of  the world it would be a pleasure to travel by the road.

A  nation  is  judged  by  the  discipline  of  its  traffic.  If  we  can  collect  toll  fee  every  50  km;  that’s  about  every  35  minutes of driving, why can’t we collect stiff penalties for breach of road
rules?
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