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There’s a well thought of business model that’s blocking the road to development, it resembles the harmless-looking tyre repair shop on the side of the highway
Posted On Friday, April 09, 2010 at 12:52:42 AM
And just ‘that bad’ which keeps the punctures happening. Like the sad old Ajit joke, where Loin (Lion) says: I will drown you in liquid oxygen. Liquid won’t let you live, oxygen won’t let you die.
Bad road was their vested interest. Punctures were their ulterior motive. On an average every seventh vehicle getting a flat tyre was considered good. Sometimes, they even threw the nails on road, just to keep the strike rate going.
The welfare state sometimes, when elections are just round the corner and just before the financial year ending on March 31, throws a generous quid or two, as part of a noble caring gesture, and mends the road in a sarkari half-hearted way, but then things soon go back to square one.
They could have lived happily ever after; the trick, as I said, was to keep the average strike rate neat, which is not a problem because more people are buying cars and motorbikes, thanks to the emerging middle class and a country which is seeing an open economy.
This translated into more tyres, which meant more punctures. The guys on the roadside actually thought they were going to live happily forever.
Meanwhile, the middle class became more upwardly mobile, the stock market crossed 20,000 points, investors rushed to that side of country, more money was sent home by NRIs, and credit card limits increased manifold. Radial tyres came, and then the tubeless ones. Roads started getting better. This meant the strike rate of punctures was on the way down.
Crisis unites people like superglue, especially people who are not on the right side of the fence. So, the secret highway puncture repair shopkeepers’ welfare association decided they wouldn’t let the road develop on that particular patch.
That they would throw more nails on the road to ensure the safe livelihood of their community. That they would gather enough votes to ensure the guy who gets chosen from their constituency ensures their vested interest and supports the ulterior motive.
They collected money to buy the tar from the contractor, bribe the driver of the road-roller and they encroached on government land to oppose the widening of the highway.
The highway, therefore, meant different things to different people. For most, it exists to help them reach somewhere, to soar and realise their dreams.
For some it was a road to subsist upon, to make the journey difficult, to make their own cut. They did not have to reach anywhere. They had nowhere to go. And they knew how to get their vote count. Soon, it wasn’t just the road and punctures and throwing of nails. It manifested and snowballed into diverse issues with bigger implications.
They knew the power to remain relevant comes from creating a nuisance, opposing evolution, blackmailing the larger community, blocking freedom of a civil society that had more votes and paid more taxes and had bigger dreams, but had little equity in the way things are run.
In the absence of assertion of the majority, which was silent, here were lands to grab and encroach, people to loot and murder and call centre employees to rape.
I recently saw a sarkari employee shooing away a crow in the sarkari premises, in such a sarkari way that the crow flatly refused to fly away.
So, nothing happens to the parasites in this modern version of the Panchatantra fable. Nothing will happen to crows, given the police, politicians and sahibs we have been bestowed with.
The emerging India is in a hurry to catch the next flight, for which it created a new highway. It had to sooner or later, which was paid for, dedicated and largely free from flat tyres.
It was betting on the dream of a great fast city with super infrastructures. But for the puncturewallahs there is a business model in place and blocking the development plan makes more sense.
I am not saying Greater Pune. I don’t want to. You didn’t have to wait long to see the new kind of puncture repair shops there. You already know them.
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