>Taxi? Scoot!


All the great metros of the world are faced with a problem that we can immediately associate to. You know, the kind, when someone broaches the topic, you are prompted to say “tell me about it!!!” Teeming population and an ever burgeoning traffic. People drive to work wary of traffic snarls. The schedule for a day, for a chap with a desk job even, however well planned, and however packed, would have at least a couple of hours set aside for the road. London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and the likes. The situation isn’t palpably different between these cities. Well, population … I wouldn’t wager on the names I mentioned above. Save for New York. The erstwhile borough has remained almost true to the saying which goes the way that, a person standing in the Times Square for a reasonably long stretch of time is likely to meet everyone on earth!!! Going by the averages, every household would have a minimum of two cars, regardless of the strength of the household. Bah, it’s not for us to discuss statistics of vehicle ownership in the western hemisphere and the Far East here.

But what really is beating many is the fact that Bangalore is getting notorious by the day for the same reasons I talked of above. And it’s overtaken the big ones by a mile already when it comes to traffic mayhem. What’s annoying is that it’s all happened not too gradually, and the entire state machinery is reeling under the onslaught. A township that was aptly named as a pensioner’s paradise, and more so, a garden city, has on record, the highest number of two-wheeled vehicles in the country. Well, this phenomenon isn’t really inexplicable. We’ve read reams of paper on the sudden emergence of Bangalore on the world map. IT, Biotechnology, Pubs, moderate climate and what not. So we shall steer clear of that realm of argument. Right then, with justly factoring in bad infrastructure for our purpose here, what exactly is it that makes commuting a nightmare for Bangaloreans today? Agreed that the cityscape is tiny compared to all the biggies in America and Europe. But again, it would be unjust make any comparison, given the sheer scale and size of business and economy in the latter.

I for one would zoom in on what happens in the gradual movement of mass on Bangalore roads. That kind of conjures up an image of Earth’s revolution around the Sun! Get an aerial view and something catches your eye almost instantly. Thousands of yellow hoods inching their way slowly in the narrow lanes of the metropolis-to-be. Yes, the ubiquitous auto rickshaws. And over the last half decade, the indigenously made Indicabs (the hatchback from Tata Motors’ stables meant for hire – you could know the pale white from a mile away!) Indicabs transport the hundreds of thousands of folks in the IT and ITeS industry. BPO/call centre gaadis as they are more conveniently referred to. And of course, they also ferry countless weekend trippers, wedding party guests and the like. Any one who gets to move around town, say for around a little more than a fortnight, could easily tell you what’s causing more than half of the chaos on the roads. Auto rickshaws and taxis together, as a matter of fact, are more than notorious for their role in peak hour confusion and wee hour accidents. The lesser said about the accident rate here, the better. There’s no great theory to account for this. For starters, the proliferating number of rickshaws and cabs are just the result of an opportunity to make a quick buck. Just as IT and outsourcing have created scores of employment opportunities to the educated workforce here, so have they for the logistics business. Youth with minimum education but no industry recognized skills to speak of, turn to taxi driving for an alternate employment option. Just think otherwise. The rising costs would have relegated millions to a state of abject penury. That should partly explain the numbers. Two. The cab drivers are literally in a race against time. You’ve got work timings round the clock in call centres and other BPOs servicing clients in different time zones. The executives need to be at their desk IN time, to get ready for service requests. This results in increased pressure on the drivers to drop the passengers at their destination in double time. We know what follows. And quite appallingly, the traffic cops seem to target everyone other than taxi drivers when it comes to penalty for flouting rules.
Did we talk of education? Not all rickshaw and cab drivers are educated even to the basic qualifying level. Leave alone, getting relevant skills for the industry, their lack of education would even speak volumes about their indifference to rules and regulations, and insensitivity to public convenience. That’s most visible when you see the yellow hoods gliding aimlessly, without sticking to a single lane, apparently due to an empty backseat. Isn’t that criminal enough?

There are loads more to keep on rambling about. But to what effect? I’m not really here to offer any suggestions, as I am no expert in traffic management, and neither am I a hard right winger to oppose influx of aliens into the cosmopolis. Its just that I’ve begun to feel more strongly than ever that, education, if not imparted with the preparedness for the coming wave of growth in the country, and just goes through the motions, might pretty much lead to a doubling in the number of call centres, and an equitable rise in the number of Indicabs and dirty yellow rickshaws unmindful of the thousands of others around them. Its after all, the new wave you see, and money is what rules, as money is what gives all. Anyone fancying a swell job with a bank in London, or big bucks for countless lines of code, written from California?