The Union Ministry of Roads and Motorways has rolled out new rules for obtaining a driver’s license in the country this month (July 2022), making it easier for those who no longer will be required to take a driving test when they apply. The focus is now shifted to driver training centres which will be handing out certificates to the candidates after they pass an examination. The new rules are reportedly yet to be implemented in the state and when it does, it will definitely make the Directorate of Transport at Babupara, Imphal become a bit less crowded.
As of now, the Directorate remains one of the busiest offices in the city with many new candidates coming to apply for or receive driving licenses, almost on a daily basis. This is understandable, as chasing the middle class dream of owning a four-wheeler vehicle such as a car or a SUV is a facet of consumerism that we have embraced with blind faith that it is a sign of progress and holding a status in society.
For a marginalised group faced with challenges to survive in a larger community, it should be considered the right choice to embrace globalisation. If the inevitable changes are shielded off, it would definitely result in a certain form of stagnancy. Such a scenario may cause a slow extinction of such groups of people who will then be doomed to become mere footnotes in the pages of history. However, the question remains as to which part of globalisation and to what degree we should accept.
We are facing bigger threats at the moment such as global warming and climate change. It appears that we have not really figured out how to make our consumers inculcate a strong sense of Carbon Awareness. Certain terms such as Carbon Footprint and ways to measure or reduce it by an individual’s daily activities remain absent from the daily conversations or concerns of the common man.
Meanwhile, consumers in some countries have set better examples in dealing with their own Carbon Footprint. It is said that half the working population of Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, commutes daily on bicycles upon 500 kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes. No wonder Netherlands, a country setting the target to become Carbon Free by 2050, is also known as the Cyclists’ Paradise.
The scenario, however, was not the same during the 60s when the sale of cars skyrocketed in Amsterdam, following the Second World War and the traditional narrow streets of the city were jammed by four wheelers. This may come as sounding quite familiar to what we are experiencing now in Imphal. However, this had already taken place in Amsterdam when globalisation was taking its first shape and cities around the world were flattened to make busy highways in the name of progress and development.
It is said that the city planners wanted to ‘modernise’ Amsterdam to make it more vehicle friendly and proposed plans to fill its famous canals with concrete and remove the residential areas to build bigger and wider roadways. This runs parallel to what we are witnessing in our home state now. In the early 70s, the Dutch road fatalities peaked and it resulted in protest movements such as ‘Stop De kindermoord’.
The Dutch government was also left with no choice but to ban cars on Sundays, following the 1973 Oil Crisis. This was the turning point when the people of Amsterdam started picking up bicycles over cars. In 1978, the government further introduced its traffic circulation plan that actually aimed to discourage car drivers and make the city become friendlier to cyclists. Had the people of Netherlands not realised that consumerism was not going to deliver a better future for their children, things would have turned out to be quite grim for them at this point of time.
We do not need an oil crisis in the country or reach a certain figure of road fatalities to make the right decisions for determining our future and leaving a better place for our children, as the people should be able to observe and learn from other models of how different societies of the world are tackling climate change. Strategies which will best serve the people and their livelihoods should be welcomed but consumerism with zero carbon awareness driven by herd mentality should be avoided at all costs.
As for the new driving license rules, it remains to be seen how this will be implemented in the state. The authorities should think twice before making it easier to hand out driving licenses and increase the number of vehicles on our roadways.