Earlier this month, education minister Vinod Tawde, while launching compressed natural gas (CNG) – fuelled two wheelers, announced crediting more marks to college students using CNG-enabled vehicles.
While the move was described as ‘impractical’, even ‘wrong’, by some experts, implicit in the announcement is the fact that an increasing number of college goers are using motorcycles to commute, instead of opting for public transport or bicycles.
The college campuses in the city, especially the ones on its outskirts provides ample evidence of this trend.
In the past one year, Birla College in Kalyan was forced to move the parking area from a narrow drive way to a spacious playground, in order to accommodate the additional motorcycles belonging to the students. “Every Diwali, 40-50 bikes are added to the parking lot,” said a college security guard.
According to the college officials, of the 9,500 students enrolled in the institute, around 700 students bring their motorcycles to the college.
In the past one year, they estimate, the number of motorcycles parked in the campus has risen by 20%, with the parking area displaying many new models of high-end motorcycles.
Chaitali Chakraborty, principal of Thakur College, located at Thakur Village in Kandivli, tells a similar story.
“Earlier, there used to be some space left in the playground, but now it’s all filled with bikes. I often find students quarrelling for parking space,” she said. The college has an enrolment of 14,000 students.
According to Subhash D’Souza, vice principal, St Joseph College in Virar, more than 40% of 1,650 students of the college commute on motorcycles. “The number of bike riders has increased,” he said.
Motorcycles not only account for the highest – 28.8% - of the total road accident share in India, but also remain a major source of noise and air pollution.
While they offer a convenient way of commute to colleges on the outskirts, which are not as connected to public transport system as their counterparts in the city, colleges said that there are other socio-economic factors responsible for the surge in motorcycles on the campus.
As the families become more nuclear, many parents can now afford to purchase motorcycles for their children, said principals. The easy availability of bank loans also makes it possible to own a bike. “We even have the students belonging to economically backward community (EBC) owning motorcycles,” said a college principal, on the condition of anonymity.
Some principals said that the changing ethos of the society also contributes to the youngsters owning expensive items such as motorcycles and high-end mobile phones, even when they don’t need them.
“These days, the children don’t take no for an answer. Many of our students live nearby, but they bring their bikes to the campus,” said D’Souza.
“There’s no shortage of rickshaws, [but the students still prefer bikes],” said Chakraborty.
Naresh Chandra, principal, Birla College, suggests that for many bike is an object of exhibition rather than a mode of transport.
“Peer pressure is the biggest factor responsible for increase in numbers. If a student gets a bike, his friends would want to want to own a bigger one,” he said. The college has been encouraging the use of bicycles, but to no avail.