Recent ban on the auto rickshaw ban on the road sides by the Hon. High Court of Kerala evoked mixed reaction in me. While I respect the Court order for ensuring safety for the pedestrians, I am not sure why the Autos alone pay the price for the improper parking on the streets. From the media reports, I understand that the order is in response to the petition filed against the Autorickshaws for intruding into the space dedicated (?) for the pedestrians. Here comes my disagreement...
In most of the cases, operations of Autorickshaws are still at the mercy of the Government authorities. They are harassed by authorities for different reasons. But what one forgets is that they play a very important role in facilitating the Public transport system. They act as the feeder systems and bridge the gaps in the last mile connectivity. If Autos are allowed to operate as share autos, more comfort and cheaper rates can be offered to the public. While Autorickshaws have a major role to enliven the urban mobility, they are not given proper space and parking grounds in most of the cases. If the authorities had given them proper space and grounds for the autos, the above situation would not have arisen.
Same is the case with pedestrians. How many roads in our country have proper pedestrian facilities and infrastructure designs supporting them? Most of the times, pedestrian side walks and refuge islands are either missing or not well connected with the rest of the eco-system. I wish the Court would have made it mandatory that the pedestrian oriented designs of standard procedures for any urban infrastructure projects.
Another important aspect is that of parking of private vehicles. Parking is a completely misunderstood concept in India. It is considered as a fundamental right of a car owner/driver to get parking ground at free of cost. Most of the Municipalities have taken the responsibility of providing the parking on their shoulders which kills the very essence of equity of distribution at the input stages of finding solutions to the problem of parking. Private vehicles are parked on the sides of the city roads obstructing the free movement of pedestrians. In my opinion, the auto rickshaw stands/parking grounds are limited particular locations in the city while private parking is omnipresent. The Hon High Court could have mentioned these aspects also (for me, it is important in this judgement otherwise the omissions and commissions will act as stand alones creating more problems) while delivering the judgement hearing the above petition.