Sunday, March 2, 2014
Vineet Gill, TNN | Mar 1, 2014, 01.51AM IST
GURGAON: Navdeep Asija is an expert on road safety and sustainable transport who currently works as the technical adviser for the Punjab government's transport department. Having made his way from Chandigarh to Gurgaon last Sunday, Asija was among the many Raahgiri Day participants. He spoke to TOI about the impact this event has had on the general mindset, and about how sustainable development may soon become a talking point for politicians.
How important is it to have dedicated stretches for non-motorized transport on urban roads today?
Actually, this comes under the fundamental rights. There is a court judgment from the '80s which talks about 'right to healthy living.' The latest National Transport Policy also talks about this in pressing terms. Right to walk, to cycle, and to breathe clean air is a constitutional right. It was only recently, in the year 2010, that the Punjab and Haryana high court issued a directive to both these neighbouring states, asking them to have at least one car-free street in each of their cities. So authorities in Gurgaon, sooner or later, are bound to pay heed to these directives, even if they seem a little reluctant as of now to fully embrace the new sustainability agenda.
What, according to you, explains this reluctance on the part of the local civic agencies?
I found that they are very pro-motorized transport in some way, which is very sad. Since our policy makers travel in cars, all they basically want to do is facilitate the movement of cars on the roads. And this is why we still keep getting those grand 16-lane highways in big cities.
You recently attended an edition of Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon. Do you think this event has played a positive part in changing the mindsets and creating a demand for non-motorized infrastructure?
Raahgiri Day has indeed proved that such events and experiments are excellent in order to generate public opinion in favour of sustainable development. It has acted as an important advocacy tool. In my opinion, we should have a Raahgiri Day in every city, because this can be of direct help to the civic agencies also. By showing that there is a demand for NMT infrastructure, it simplifies the task of the authorities.
So what should be the next step for Raahgiri campaign?
People of this city have given their mandate. Now it is the duty of the civic officials to live up to the expectations by delivering what is being demanded - an upgrade of the NMT infrastructure here. I am also hopeful that in this election year, sustainable development will become part of the political agenda. In fact, all political parties should include this in their manifestos. Flyovers cost hundreds of crores. A little attention to sustainable living costs close to nothing.
at 11:32 AM