A recent directive by the high court of Himachal Pradesh to the state government to register only those cars within the Shimla municipal corporation limits where owners produce a certificate, issued by the collector, that they have parking space, is thought-provoking and should make car-makers wary of what any logical extension of this would entail.
At the moment, the verdict is that each individual customer wanting to buy a car would need to produce proof that he has parking space for his proud possession. However, procuring the certificate is likely to be cumbersome, time-consuming and could lead to a parallel market for such a document without really solving the mess of parking.
In fact, auto sales are likely be impacted and if I were the owner at one of the automobile manufacturers, I would be thinking of ways to contribute to ameliorating the parking woes and also earning public goodwill, which is the target of expensive celebrity-based advertising anyway.
There are ways to solve this parking mess, but most seem counter-intuitive. The easiest is of course to levy a parking cess, but this is really such a long process that it is rendered ineffective and, of course, continuing car sales add to the relentless pressure on space.
Finding a solution to the issue needs serious thought and investment, considering the gravity of the situation. I have previously suggested in this column that one of the solutions in the medium-term could be that people be paid a token amount for parking vehicles far-off from say central places and encouraged to walk to their intended shop or office. These lots could be maintained by the local body.
This will also result in saving of diesel and fuel that the habit of doorstep parking, considered a right for us Punjabis, results in.
We need pretty serious intervention from the information technology field to design a sophisticated car-pooling system. This would need to be marketed as a socialisation and friendship opportunity to really ensure that there are users.
In a decade or so, I can easily foresee people subscribing to a car-pooling service. This is a great business opportunity that needs to be explored. The costs of making this application or the service an option could actually be borne by car-makers as a chance to seize the opportunity to generate sales and categorised as marketing or miscellaneous expenses. If appropriately planned, this could even be considered part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandate, with government approval.
Of course, automobile manufacturers can say that they are into the core business of manufacturing and selling cars and not into the business of arranging parking spaces. This argument is technically perfect, but not in the right spirit of doing business.
If the problem of parking is left to fester and ignored for even 10 more years, our roads, especially in the tricity, would simply become unmotorable and we might even have a law limiting the use of roads for certain categories of vehicles at certain times of the day.
This and other measures might seem draconian and an assault on our liberties, but such a lifestyle is very much in the realm of probability.