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Discombobulated– That word means to be confused. And, that has been my state of mind on the subject, ever since the statement was made by Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Shri Nitin Gadkari Ji.


I sincerely believe that Minister made the statement as an act of saving the grace. It was a statement meant to veil the reality. I assert so because almost every foreign player working on the technology is doubtful of the capability of Indian roads and traffic conditions to make it possible for autonomous vehicles (AVs) to run on them in near future.

And, the incumbent Government and bureaucracy are well aware of this scathing truth. So, Minister made the statement only to make it seem like it’s us who purged off the AVs and not the international manufacturers who were skeptical of Indian roads and traffic realities. But, moving beyond this note and delving into more economic and political reasons, I am again at crossroads. Or as I stated above, discombobulated.

On one hand, autonomous vehicles would lead to a gargantuan rise in productivity and a dramatic reduction in road accidents and casualties. Meanwhile, there will be a big change in the fuel consumption dynamics because of much more efficient travel systems, boosting savings. And, most importantly, a large-scale acceptance of AVs will free up an unprecedented scale of resources of multifarious kinds.

Why is that good news? Because these freed-up resources can then very well be used towards more productive and needed investments like better infrastructure building, enhancing education and healthcare et cetera. Ergo, with all of that stated, I am definitely a fan of this revolutionary technology and would love to see autonomous vehicles plying on Indian roads at the earliest.

But, there is more. My mind has more to say on the subject, which is more alarming than soothing. The scale of jobs that would be lost will be to the tunes of several millions. And, each of these millions of drivers has got a family which depends on him/her for survival and sundry unavoidable needs. Loss of means to subsistence and livelihood for these people would therefore be catastrophic and probably in no time grow into a big national crisis.

Many argue that jobs lost will be compensated with new jobs created to maintain and repair the fleets of autonomous vehicles. True. But, I find that argument very naive. I say so because these newly created jobs would need a technically skilled workforce, which most of these drivers won’t be able to provide. Thus, new jobs will undoubtedly be created. Probably these jobs will be high paying as well.

But, these jobs won’t help the ones who would have lost their jobs to make way for the change- The millions of hapless drivers. Is that a price we as a nation are ready to pay? I don’t have an answer to that. Almost nobody does. And, that is exactly where the solution to this conundrum lies. Ergo, processing all those thoughts, I am confused if I personally endorse Nitin Gadkari Ji’s statement or not.

Probably I am somewhere in between. Somewhere trying to figure out if benefits outweigh the costs, or if we are good the way we are (for now). And, that is what I think on the matter. What’s your take? Mention in the comments. Bliss!

Regards,

Shilanjan

 

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