Elitism Has Now Nowhere to Hide!!

Shabab Khan| Delhi | Special Edition | Friday, Dec 12, 2015

“. . . Odd-Even Rotation is, though not a successful formula we can, yet, give it a try. Just make sure traffic police do not encash even oddities. . . ”

I am very proud of the Indian elite. We may largely fail at everything else, but we are world-beaters in terms of self-pitying outrage.

First: a word about the “elite”. You, sir or madam, are a member of the elite. Please do not call yourself middle class. By no logical, ethical or mathematical principle can the top few percentiles of a country in terms of income call itself middle class. If you still try and do so, you are being dishonest.

Yes, if the Delhi government’s odd-even car regulation affects you, then you’re certainly a member of the elite. Only 10-11 per cent of Delhi, the richest state in India, drives to work in a car or van, according to the 2011 Census. Let’s just put that out there.

Second, on the facts: first, Delhi has the worst air in the world. We know this, as also the fact that poor air quality spikes in wintertime.

Second, in spite of rampant disinformation that number plate-based road rationing “has not worked anywhere”, pretty much everywhere it has been tried as a temporary measure has shown a 17-20 per cent drop in pollution.

Third, in spite of more rampant disinformation that cars don’t really count towards pollution in Delhi, most reliable independent studies show they do – between 50 and 80 per cent.

And yet Delhi’s elite is terrified at the prospect of having a spot of car trouble for a fortnight just in order to live a little longer thanks to cleaner air. It is outrageous to ask us to live for seven days like the other 90 per cent of our fellow-citizens! Outrageous to suggest we walk or take a cycle-rickshaw to a crowded metro station, like the real middle class! Tyrannical to make us pay a few hundred rupees for a taxi during a public health emergency!

Only the Indian elite would rather not breathe than be ordinary.

What deep cultural neuroses underline this panic at dealing with regular people’s realities? I can’t help thinking that our cultural attitude to public transport mirrors our attitude to public spaces, and arises from the same space. An odd characteristic of India is the startling contrast between its particularly pure private and domestic spaces – and its completely uncared-for public spaces.

Why is this? Perhaps because we have one of the most fragmented societies in the world, and always have half; solidarity, under these circumstances, is particularly difficult to build. And a certain degree of solidarity is essential for anything “public” to be effective – public goods, public spaces, public transport, public discourse.

In this case, we have a particularly amusing problem. The elite can secede from dug-up pavement, from sewage in drinking water, from litter-strewn public parks, from inadequate policing. But it cannot secede from murderous air.

Or can it? Certainly, one truly extraordinary statement of our cultural biases is that most people seem more willing to pay thousands of rupees for air purifiers for every room than to deal with road rationing for a few weeks. If the electricity goes off, no worries! The diesel gen-set will kick in, spewing more fumes into the air. This is my right; and it is a problem only for those with neither air purifiers nor electricity.

Some have claimed that it isn’t fair to talk about elitism in this context. After all, the concerns being expressed are just the same as anyone would have about commuting – the safety, the crowds, the difficulty. This is, in many ways, the most puzzling argument yet. It seems almost painfully clear that expecting money and status would insulate you from the problems that everyone else faces is the very definition of elitism.

Cultural biases blind you to data. It means that nobody is interested in the undeniable facts that I laid out above – that road rationing has been shown to work, that car commuters are a tiny upper crust, that cars are undeniably responsible for Delhi pollution. Similarly, cultural biases against solidarity means that nobody was interested in the undeniable fact that far more people benefited from a working bus rapid transit system than were hurt. Studies of commuters at the time showed that between 80 to 90 per cent of them approved of the BRT corridor; but the noise that the 10 per cent creates is too loud and privileged for the others to be heard.

There are other debates, too, where cultural biases against solidarity blind us to facts or logic; for example, the idea that a “creamy layer” of reserved-quota applicants take coveted college seats away from general-class applicants. When economists examined the question rigorously, they found quota applicants offered seats in the engineering entrance exam they studied had, in fact, family incomes much lower – 60 per cent of – the family income of those general-category students who would otherwise have been admitted. Creamy indeed.

Nor is this blindness a Delhi problem. It’s an India problem. Of the world’s 20 most polluted towns, 13 are in India. And most of the others are in Pakistan and Bangladesh, a moving reminder of our common cultural characteristics.

But this doesn’t matter. Our ñwhiny “middle class” would rather have sewage in their water, cancer in their air and death on their roads than ever accept that they share the earth they walk on with other, lesser breeds of human.

Twitter: @khantastix
Instagram: @iamshababkhan

(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, and Social Activist)
Twitter: @Khantastix

Auto Brides of 2015!!

Indian automobile industry has become quite competitive in last few years, and the makers who have been able to bring in new products did pretty well despite the slow growth the industry has witnessed.

Since the beginning of this calendar year, 7 New Cars has been introduced:
–– Datsun GO
–– Tata Bolt
–– New Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class,
–– 2015 Hyundai Verna,
–– 2015 VW Jetta,
–– BMW i8 Plug-in Hybrid
–– 2015 Maruti Swift Dzire.

This month 4 New arrivals are scheduled to be launched. Here is the brief introduction:

2015 Mercedes Benz:

Mercedez Benz
2015 Mercedes Benz B Class Facelift

The first product to be launched this month is the updated Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which has received minor exterior updates and new features. On the outside, the vehicle gets new bumpers and LED daytime running head lamps integrated into the cluster.

While the exterior updates are minimal, the cabin receives some significant updates like metal inserts, red stitching on the steering and seats, and carbon fibre finished dash board. That said, there will be no mechanical changes made to the car.

• Launch Date: March 11 2015
• Expected Price: 29,00,000 to 30,00,000₹

Hyundai i20 Active:

Overwhelmed by the success of the new i20, Hyundai India is now all set to launch the cross over version of the car in the Indian market. To be called the i20 Active, the vehicle shares its underpinnings with its hatch back sibling. Though to give it a crossover-like appearance, the company has added plastic cladding all over the body, increased its ground clearance and made some changes to the front, rear and interiors of the car.

The front-fascia of the car gets a new skid plate, new bumper with large fog lamps, projector head-lights with daytime running lamps etc. The rear profile too receives quite a few changes like new bumper with circular reflectors and silver skid plate. The vehicle also gets a roof spoiler, roof rails and bigger alloy wheels.

• Launch Date: March 17, 2015
• Expected Price: 5,80,000 – 6,00,000₹

MINI Cooper S:

Mini Cooper
BMW India that had launched the new generation of the MINI 3-door and 5-door in India in Nov 2014, is now planning to launch the more powerful S trim of the car this month.

Powering this vehicle is a four-cylinder TwinPower turbo petrol engine that is good for 189bhp and 280Nm. This engine will come mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

• Expected Launch: March 3rd Week
• Expected Price: 40,00,000₹

Renault Lodgy MPV:

Renault Lodgy MUV
India that has already unveiled the official picture of its upcoming 7- seater MPV the Lodgy – is now planning to launch it here by the end of this month. The MPV is likely to share its underpinning with other Renault products that are on sale in India. The vehicle will use the same 1.5-litre, 84bhp diesel that powers the Duster. Whereas, the petrol engine could be the Scala’s 1.5-litre 98bhp engine.

• Expected Launch: March last week
• Expected Price: 6,50,000 – 9,00,000₹

So guys, these are the four new pretty ladies, joining a messy and over crowded party, lets see who rocks and who regrets. I will come back with the reviews of all in details, which will help you understanding the technical issues in compare to proposed price.

…shabab khan’s blog