Monday, 30 December 2013

Disabled Left Behind in the Race of Cars

Disabled Left Behind in the Race of Cars

If wishes were cars, most of us would have a fleet of the most desirable cars of the world in our garage—Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bugatti Veyron. Sadly, wishes are not cars and most of us have to do with lesser cars or no cars at all.

The automotive market in India has opened up and we have various types of cars now. If one studies the market, it shows more than just cars or two-wheelers. It tells the story of a country changing so quickly through the kinds of cars available that one could actually tell where its people stand and where India is headed for?

The cheapest car in the country, or anywhere in the world, is Tata Nano. Ratan Tata has single-handedly made the dreams of millions of lower class and rural Indians of owning a car possible. Aimed at the aam aadmi, it is nano-sized and nano-priced.

However, contrary to expectations, its positioning as a cheap car proved to be its undoing, and it is struggling to find a foothold in the auto sector. It goes to show the rising aspirations of the common person for whom a car is not just a vehicle of mobility, but also a statement of one’s position in society.

At the other end of the spectrum are designer cars that have been added flourishes by people like Dilip Chhabria, to make them stand apart. The cost is no bar, one boasting a `4-crore price tag. They are for ones who go for the snob value of a product, and want something exclusive.

A very different vehicular segment, largely ignored, is for those among us who are less visible and not considered as market for cars; the un-factored but huge segment of people with disabilities, who number about 7 to 10 crores.

With public transport not being disabled-friendly, this section remains largely cooped up in their homes, not because of physical handicap but because they do not have a viable means of travelling around independently. Hence, they remain deprived of education, employment, entertainment and other activities. So, instead of becoming a contributing and productive segment, they become a liability to society.

On the positive side, one vehicle has been designed for people with disabilities. Called Plexus (Personal Vehicle for Transporting Wheelchairs), it is a vehicle in which a wheelchair can be wheeled in directly for the user.

If India wants to accelerate its sluggish pace of development, all of its people need to be mobile, independent and on the go. This is a vast market for technical products that manufacturers are not tapping into. With the assistance of such customised products, a new wave of workforce that is being left behind can enter the job market. This can only enhance our economy.

Now, if someone from the government throws a dinner and brings together such revolutionary people who think off the beaten track, leave them in a room for 30 minutes and then see, what emerges out of that extempore boardroom meeting! I have a feeling it would be a vehicle of progress with the body aesthetics of a DC, the mind of a Tata and the spirit of a professor.

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