The Rs 1.82 petrol hike has fuelled a fiery debate in political circles, with UPA's allies strongly criticising the move. Mamata Banerjee was vociferous in her discontent over the fuel price hike, and has even threatened to withdraw support to the government.
Other heavyweights like Sharad Pawar, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati lashed out at the government over the hike. Meanwhile, Manmohan Singh has come out in defence of the hike, terming it 'a process in the right direction'.
At this point one must evaluate if this is the right direction. According to statistics, the Indian automobile industry is emerging as a major force in the world, with over 8 million vehicles manufactured annually. In this scenario, five hikes (in one year) in fuel prices will only hamper the production and sales of the industry.
Just take a look at the traffic jams in each city across India. Motorists burn gallons of fuel stuck in peak hour jams, and with the hiked petrol prices you can calculate how many millions are being burnt waiting for the traffic to ease out. The pollution caused is just one of the hazards that we are gradually waking up to. So where is the solution?
For that we must take a look at European nations that have found a simple and effective solution to this mess. Forget the car, take a bike instead.
Countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands are among the leading bicycle-friendly countries in the world. Close to 30% of the workforce in these countries takes the cycle to work. It's both an environment friendly and cost effective means of transportation.
The Swiss have regular campaigns where they encourage their workforce to pedal to work. Amsterdam has close to 300 km of bike lanes and over 40% of all trips in the city are on cycles. Even China and Japan have taken to pedalling with a vengeance. The fact that cycling burns about 600 calories per hour is just one of the many benefits of pedalling to work.
So, if these nations can reduce their fuel usage and decrease environment pollution, what holds us back from adopting the same formula and saving our bank balance while at it?