Electric Vehicles in India

Electric vehicles are automobiles that run on electricity instead of conventional petrol or diesel. While electricity is also produced only after burning fossil fuels, its carbon footprint is much lower, and the air pollution occurs far away from big cities or crowded towns. Electric cars and buses use rechargeable batteries for storing electricity, while trams and trolley buses use overhead wire for the same purpose. With rising prices for petrol and diesel, the Indian Government as well the state governments are looking to switch over to electric vehicles to not only reduce transportation but also reduce the mineral oil import to India. The Government at the same time is looking towards new greener sources of electric power like solar, wind, and hydro which will further reduce India’s dependency on mineral oil.

E-Rickshaw in Streets Carrying Passengers

One of the first revolutions in electric transportation is the e-rickshaw, also called toto. E-rickshaw has cheaper operation costs, thus have attracted the attention of auto-drivers. E-rickshaws have replaced conventional auto-rickshaws in most villages and some cities. However, they are functioning poorly in the cities due to pressure created by auto unions and some bad politics. E-rickshaws are increasingly becoming more popular among the passengers due to less jerk and comfort and hence have a bright future ahead.

Two-wheelers were the next target for a massive e-vehicle move. E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular as well as affordable to not only the rich but also the middle class. Electric vehicles have a very high initial cost which keeps away most riders preferring a cheaper vehicle. Moreover, low top speed and unavailability of charging places are some of the main reasons why e-bikes are still unpopular among the masses.

Charging Station in Mumbai

Electric cars are the future of our cars. But they are not going to replace motor cars in the streets of India anytime soon. Electric cars are worth several times that of motor cars, hence are unaffordable for most people. But with increased production, the cost can get lowered to a margin slightly above motor cars having similar features. Charging is a major problem for electric cars as charging a car takes a considerable amount of time, and are unreliable for long-distance travelling. The best option available outside India is battery swapping, which is widely gaining popularity. Similar to re-fueling, used car batteries are swapped with charged ones. This saves up a lot of time, saves employment of charging stations, and is also more convenient to use. Improving the top speed remains a priority for the engineers as electric cars have much lower top speed and hence will be unable to compete with highway vehicles. Electric cars are best used within towns and cities where huge traffic slows down vehicular speed.

Electric Bus in Kolkata

Electric buses are a new addition to the fleet of public transportation in India. Electric buses ply largely along the streets of satellite towns and modern developed areas. Electric buses with AC do not charge greater than the AC motor buses, hence can be afforded by all. However, there is a clear difference in operational cost between non-AC electric and motor buses, hence non-AC electric buses are almost absent. Many State Governments are looking to switch their IC engine bus fleet to electrical by 2030 in large polluted cities.

Trams are operational in Kolkata though it a much smaller network. With constant apathy from the West Bengal Government, Kolkata tram is not looking at a bright future as a mode of urban transportation. More likely it will keep operating trams in some heritage routes as a tourist attraction. Mumbai monorail, after a poor start, is performing well as the corridors have reached crowded and busy junctions of the city. Light railway do not have an operational status in India though is at a planning stage in Delhi. Ropeway is hardly used anywhere in India as a public transportation despite having great potential. It is, and will still continue to be used only as a tourist attraction.

Mumbai Monorail

In conclusion, it can be drawn that except for e-rickshaw, most other vehicles will not go a transformation from IC engines to electric anytime soon. But the change will occur gradually in the long term. The Government needs to contribute a lot to bring about this change, like installing charging or battery swapping stations, reducing initial costs through subsidiaries, finding new forms of vehicles like e-buses, trolley buses, trams, and light railways. Only after switching a considerable fleet of public transportation to electric, we can expect a similar gradual switching in the private transportation sector.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Some Solutions to Combat Delhi Smog

Since the past decade, Delhi has been witnessing one of the world’s worst smog ever in October and November. Diwali and farmers are blamed every year for causing such a hazardous situation for the national capital. However, Delhi shies away from changing itself to solve the problem once and for all. It is easy to put the blame game on others, and do nothing. The Delhi Government has taken some steps to minimize air pollution, but it is usually too little too late.

More than the Delhi Government, the current infrastructure and apathy of the citizens towards the environment of Delhi are more responsible for the Great Smog. Many of Delhi’s power plants are located in the suburbs, which are completely closed during the smog period. Construction work that generates too much fly ash is also halted all across Delhi. Usually, the order from the Government comes after Delhi gets completely engulfed in smog. On the other hand, little changes in lifestyle and infrastructure could have worked better for Delhi, which exists in a place in other parts of the country. Some of them are listed below.

1)Use Delhi Metro :
Delhi metro is one of the quickest, cleanest, and easiest modes of transportation in Delhi. The carbon footprints of Delhi Metro is significantly lower than that of all other transportation. Delhi metro has expanded to connect every nook and corner of the national capital. Delhi metro over the years is increasingly becoming more and more eco-friendly by installing solar panels, providing buses and e-rickshaw, and even taxis for last-mile connectivity. Despite all the good efforts, Delhi metro is yet to attract every commuter across the city owing to its expensive ticketing costs. Kolkata metro may be an example of a cheap metro which attracted commuters from all classes due to its cheap rates.

2)Expand Delhi Suburban Railway :
Similar to the Delhi Metro, Delhi has a good network of railway lines towards the suburban cities of Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, and Meerut. However, most of the tracks are used for long-distance trains and freight trains. Delhi has a ring railway which remains completely disused today. Suburban services are unattractive to the citizens, having little or no interchange with major bus or metro stops. Delhi does not have a monorail, tram, or any other form of transit other than the metro. Thus reliant on the usage of roads is heavy, causing huge traffic jams. Local trains of Mumbai are a good example of how suburban railways are used by a large chunk of the city population.

3)Lack of Greenery :
Delhi never used to lack greenery despite being the capital of various dynasties and empires. The Mughals and even the British were fond of gardens and open spaces which serves not only as a place for recreation but also as a source of fresh air and oxygen. Delhi today has grown beyond its borders and has eaten down even the small pockets of greenery that remained. Today only the southern parts of Delhi have some open space, where big, old trees are being felled for fields, locally called maidans, for sports and yoga. Nearby cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur and Agra have significantly less pollution due to large areas of natural vegetation within the city boundaries.

4)Unreliable Bus Service :
Bus service across the city is not that reliable either, prompting most people to use either private cars or bikes for transportation. Private cars and bikes are the biggest sources of air pollution in the city. Chennai has an excellent network of bus service catering 80% of the local transportation. Buses in Delhi are usually off-route, unfriendly, infrequent, and irregular, apart from being expensive, causing most of the population to stay away from using them.

5)Promotion of Green Fireworks :
No steps have been taken by the Government to stop the sale of banned fireworks, which cause too much pollution. Green fireworks, on the other hand, release significantly lower amounts of pollutants, thus can curb the sudden spike in pollution levels just after Diwali. As green fireworks are a bit on the pricier side, most sellers do not sell them to attract more customers. The Government, instead of promoting green fireworks and banning the illegal, is confused about what rules to apply. Banning illegal fireworks and promoting green fireworks comes way too late when most crackers are sold, and the crackers are unclassified whether illegal or not. Assam and the north-eastern states are doing well in this regard strictly allowing only green fireworks to be sold.

We all need to join hands and save our environment. Can you suggest some measures to do so? Tell us in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

GASPING FOR AIR, GASPING FOR ANSWERS.

The people of India are entitled to a full and honest account of what led more than a billion people to a catastrophe.

The struggle to breathe, or asphyxia, is the most terrifying human experience. Something one takes for granted, which we do more than a dozen times every minute, suddenly becomes an ordeal. I know how this feels having lived through tormenting bouts of asthma in my younger years and, more recently, when I found myself trapped under a raft in the freezing, raging, Zanskar river in Ladakh. The memories of gasping of air and the fear of dying are seared into my brain. Death typically comes as a relief from the terror, as multiple organ systems collapse due to the lack of oxygen, a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas which we are not even aware of until we cannot get enough of it. Oxygen. A word which should signify vitality and exuberance, but which in recent weeks has become synonymous with death and suffering. Who would have ever imagined that the India of 2021 which boasts sending rockets to the stars and manufactures oxygen on an industrial scale, would one day be unable to supply oxygen to save her own people?

The trauma of asphyxia

The word “trauma” typically evokes extreme events such as rape, sexual abuse and war-related violence. This is not surprising given that the word gained currency as a medical condition in the aftermath of the Vietnam war when tens of thousands of soldiers from the united states returning from the brutal conflict exhibited a range of distressing symptoms, giving birth to the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But the truth is that trauma can occur in many more diverse ways, and it is only now, with COVID-19 sweeping the world, that gasping for air has been recognized as a traumatic event. What ties these seemingly unconnected experiences together is that they all evoke the same intense emotions: a toxic brew of extreme fear and utter helplessness. These experiences, especially when sustained over hours or days, literally leave an imprint in the brain so that the hallmark features of PTSD symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks and feeling on edge, recur at any time, sometimes triggered by a totally unrelated event which bears similarity to the trauma.

A recent study from the United Kingdom of over 13,000 survivors of COVID-19 reported a strong correlation between the severity of the infection and subsequent PTSD. While just over 1% of the patients reported breathing problems or hospital admissions, the prevalence of PTSD in the months which followed were staggering: 35% of the sickest, and 15% of even those who only needed home assistance. The most prominent symptoms were frightening intrusive images of being breathless or ventilated. Thus, for those who do survive these nightmares moments on the edge of life, the ordeal is far from over. Even as we struggle to keep those gasping for air alive, we must simultaneously attend to the long-term mental health consequences of survivors, a task even more daunting in a country where trauma-related mental health problems are barely even acknowledged.

Healing through the truth

But, long-term recovery of the collective trauma will need a resolution of the pent-up rage that is burning a hole in our souls. This will need the equivalent of the truth and Reconciliation Commissions which have served to heal the collective traumas of events which affected entire populations, such as apartheid in South Africa. Such an independent commission would document the facts behind the tragedy unfolding across India, hold individuals and institutions accountable, and offer a path towards restorative justice to heal a deeply wounded nation. Last week, when the Delhi High Court issued an order to the central government to ensure the supply of oxygen, I was puzzled by its statement that “as it stands, we all know this country is being run by god.” I will never know who was being referred to as god, but I am assuming it must be the spiritual being we pray to in our myriad places of worship. If so, then we must ensure that this is not the final judgement of the apocalypse that has befallen India. The people of this country are entitled to a full and honest account of what led more than a billion people into a catastrophe if only to put at rest our troubled minds, restore the fractured trust between the people and the state, and be better prepared for the next pandemic.