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India can do without an unsafe quadricycle, says Venu Srinivasan

Murali Gopalan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 05, 2014

Venu Srinivasan, Chairman and Managing Director of TVS Motor Company Ltd   -  N SRIDHARAN

TVS Motor chief says a “vulnerable and unfit” four wheel alternative should not be launched.



Venu Srinivasan, Chairman and Managing Director of TVS Motor Company, believes that a quadricycle as a mobility solution will do little in improving road safety and emissions.

“It is true that three-wheelers are less safe and also have higher emissions than cars. But the answer then is to introduce a new class of vehicles which are very safe and low in emissions and not what is currently defined as a quadricycle,” he says.

According to Srinivasan, the current definition is a “retrograde step” and the Government could, consequently, miss an important opportunity to make Indian roads and environment safer. “In this backdrop, it seems surprising that someone actually wants to launch a quadricycle that is less safe and more polluting,” he says.

Changing norms

Srinivasan draws attention to the time the Centre, under the Ministry of Surface Transport, set up a committee under the chairmanship of Dinesh Tyagi to frame norms for the quadricycle. These were apparently set at around 30 per cent lower than four-wheelers but distinctly better than those existing for three-wheelers.

“Surprisingly, though, the Government ignored the recommendations and put out a new set of norms that were aligned largely to three-wheelers,” Srinivasan says. In short, he adds, the Tyagi committee report set the standards which were subsequently diluted rather blatantly.

“That the Government should set up an expert panel and then subvert its recommendations themselves is strange. What motivated them to do this is puzzling to say the least,” he says.

From Srinivasan’s point of view, this is “astonishing” especially when there is a new Motor Vehicles Act in place which prescribes a host of safety measures for cars/two-wheelers and imposes stiff punishments for violations.

“Why then should this country legislate a vehicle with 1980s safety norms? It is not in the best interest of our society,” he says. The answer, according to him, lies in upgrading three-wheelers to meet emission and safety norms instead of getting regressive.

“If this vehicle is launched as a commercial mode of transport and later enters the personal use space, it would cause grievous harm to society,” Srinivasan cautions. According to him, quadricycles have higher fatalities than cars across the world. One could be moving at 30kmph but cannot do much if a bus or truck knocks the vehicle on the side and it is completely crumpled as a result. “Eventually, the risk comes from a heavier vehicle hitting a lighter one as is the case with most Indian cities where we see this happening ever so often,” Srinivasan says.

It is also impossible to ensure exclusive space for lighter vehicles simply because there are not enough roads. “There is no justification to introduce something as vulnerable and unfit as a quadricycle in this chaotic ecosystem,” he adds.

Clearing the air

Srinivasan reiterates that, contrary to common perception, TVS Motor does not have a vested interest in the quadricycle project. “I would like to say that we do not have a quadricycle planned at this point in time,” he says. Solutions are eventually about “public interest and not narrow private interests”. Srinivasan maintains that his views are just not about a particular product’s use being debated but in ensuring that the best solutions are in place for the benefit of society. Indian manufacturers are more than equipped to rise to the challenge and present appropriate solutions.

“The country can certainly do without a cheap and unsafe alternative when we should be moving ahead towards safer, low-emission vehicles,” he says. Any form of urban transport ought to be defined with the future in mind and not an incremental improvement on the past “as in this case”.

Greener solutions

The need of the hour, he adds, is to promote lighter urban vehicles for the future with high safety and low emissions especially with cities are getting increasingly congested. “India should be looking at ultra low emission vehicles like electric hybrids or pure electric vehicles with speeds of 50 kmph,” Srinivasan says.

It is equally imperative for manufacturers to be proactive with mobility solutions. As a result, “we need to be ahead of the Government and show them the way” in framing appropriate policies.

“Manufacturers should take cognisance of society and not end up becoming retrograde. Therefore, make airbags mandatory as also helmets if you need to save lives,” Srinivasan says. India is changing rapidly with people opting for a host of mobility solutions as the pressure on public transport increases. This only means that there is a need to have a cohesive environment and safety roadmap for the future.

“After all, we are still lagging behind the world on these issues. For instance, the particulate matter in India is 20 times average global levels and has doubled over the last five years,” Srinivasan says. Delhi is often cited as the benchmark for emissions since the time compressed natural gas became mandatory a decade ago but the air quality in the city is still far worse than Beijing’s.

Refreshed rules

”In conclusion, I must reiterate that the Government must revisit the proposed rules for quadricycles and align them close to M1 or car category of vehicles. This would be in the best interests of society and in line with the the new Motor Vehicles Act,” Srinivasan says.

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Published on December 05, 2014
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