Have you heard of car-free Thursday? No, it’s not that you get cars free on that day. It is not even care-free day spelt wrong. It is what it says – a day with no cars on roads.
Hyderabad, with its unimaginable growth of traffic especially in the IT pocket, has severely clogged up roads. Add to it a rise in the number of vehicles, metro works interruptions, people’s frenzy to get somewhere in a jiffy.
“There are 1.2 lakh private vehicles on roads in the IT belt alone in the city. Over 40,000 of these are cars which occupy an unreasonable amount of road space, considering that each car carries only one passenger usually”, bemoans Ramesh Loganatham, President of HYSEA (Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association).
To bring down this staggering number, HYSEA has collaborated with the Raahgiri group which was already on the road to reclaiming streets. Car-free Thursdays took off in August this year and picked up pace in October. On Thursdays, we now see 3,000 fewer cars on the road. The government runs 80 buses for commuters.
So how do people get to their destination? Some take the bus, some car-pool and some take share autos. “Although we are not used to it, it’s best to car-pool to justify a large-sized car on a crowded bridge,” says Ramesh. The concept sounds western, because we need our privacy and usually do not trust strangers. “It’s common for men to hitch-hike, but women hesitate to adopt this model,”adds Prashanth Bachu, Urban transport planner who has worked in cities across India. Guess what, even our IT minister K Tarakarama Rao, aka KTR, has encouraged this and asking us to go all out.
We’ve seen policy-makers enforcing change – like ban of plastic bags for example. But it is rare that we find civilian groups addressing concerns in such a constructive manner. Inspiring, isn‘t it?
What began as fun, weekend activity now has taken on a committed note with the involvement of officials like Sandeep Sultania, Transport commissioner.
Our dear Hyderabad has set a trend for most other cities. Gurgaon started car-free Tuesdays, a few weeks after us. Now that’s what I call the Hyderabadi spirit. We initiate, embrace and inspire!
(The writer (Swapna Sundari) is a popular TV show host, radio jockey, professional singer… and most importantly, a hardcore Hyderabadi.)