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Travel Feet Up

If the desire is to travel into the past step elegantly into a bullock cart as was the style in the pre-Christian era…

In the Mohenjodaro excavations toy models of carts drawn by oxen are found. A bronze model of a cart with the driver seated and holding a whip has been excavated in Chanudaro another city of the same civilization. Two bullocks yoked to a pole with a cart which at times may have a roof over a wooden framework were the principal means of transport. In Egypt a drawing has been found among the paintings of Thothemas II (1495 B.C.) said to be of the oldest Indian ‘car’.

The ancient texts and epics also mention the various modes of transport that were used in the march of Indian civilization. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata mention chariots and carts embellished with various gems and precious metals. The Pushpa Vimana or the bejeweled chariot which was in Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana, is described in great detail in the Ramayana. Horses, asses and mules were used to draw these carts.

Horses were ridden as also used to pull chariots in the Rig Vedic times. Sometimes more than two per cart were also used. These carriages were mostly used by the rich. The common people used wagons drawn by a bull and a buffalo, sometimes more than two animals were used, depending on the size of the vehicle. The wheel had spokes and the chariots were made ordinarily of light wood. A more rough and tough form of cart was used for bad roads. The Greek historian Herodotus talks of the chariots used in the campaigning to help Darius III, King of Iran against Alexander of Macedon. These chariots were drawn by wild asses and horses. Nearchus the Cretan Commander of Alexander’s fleet has also recorded the four horse chariots used by the wealthy along with elephants for transport.

The Arthasashtra, the ancient treatise on administration, mentions palanquin and carts drawn by horses, camels and bullocks. In Mauryan times there was a Superintendent of chariots and factories for the manufacture and maintenance of chariots and carriages of different kinds .Alexander’s Roman historian Curtious records and Mauryan king Chandragupta begin carried in a palanquin made of gold and embellished with pearls. His processions would include amongst others, chariots drawn by four horses. During King Harshavardhana’s rule elephants and horses were used widely and were royal transport. All this before the sixth century A.D.

Thereafter innovation in transport seems to have been limited to changes of designs or accessories. In fact during the Mughal rule, roads deteriorated and wheeled traffic found it difficult to move on, particularly during the monsoons.

The European horse and buggy or post chaise were expensive means of commuting and used only by the very rich.

In the hills ponies were used. At times children and sometimes adults would travel in a sort of basket chair on the backs of the coolies or porters.

In the 20th century, the old modes of transport, the cart and the carriage were still used. The new additions specially in the north of India were all horse drawn. They were the tanga, ekka and shikram a box-like four wheeler. Carriages on the European pattern also came into use such as the landau, buggy, trap, phaeton or Victoria. Hand drawn and hand pushed carts were also used for conveying people. The palanquin and dolie carried by men were also used as transport for people. This was the case in cities. In the rural areas bullock carts were widely used.

World over, the state of the automobile industry has served as a barometer of the fortunes of the industrial sector as a whole. The state of consumer demand is reflected in auto sales which in turn have wide repercussions because of extensive linkages with suppliers. It is therefore a happy fact that the automobile sector is one of the fastest growing industries in India.

Prior to independence in the 1940s India had no automobile industry to speak of. Cars were brought into the country in a knocked down condition from England. They were reassembled to serve the minuscule market provided by the British ruling class and some Indian elites. The presence of such vehicles led to the birth of an indigenous spare parts industry mostly concentrated in the south of the country.

Today, the automobile industry is fast maturing. It sells about 4 million vehicles which is nearly 10 times more than the 45,000 sales that were realized in 1984. Over the last three years, the industry has been recording growth rates of 20%. Over 2 billion dollars of direct foreign investment has flowed into this sector alone. Virtually every automobile giant in the world be it General Motors, Puegeot, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Fiat, Daewoo, Hyundai or Honda have invested substantially in setting up production facilities in India.

The encouraging policy environment, continuously rising incomes, and the increasing availability of consumer finance is likely to ensure that the auto industry continues its present rate of expansion.

The boom in the automobile industry has had a favourable impact on the auto components sector which has grown in an even more spectacular fashion at a rate of more than 30% per annum. The industry manufactures the entire range of parts from castings and forgings to final assemblies. There are over 300 medium and large units and several thousand small sector units active in the industry employing about 250,000 people. As regards future growth, investments of about $ 400 million are expected to be made in the next few years. Much of this investment would come from foreign companies which have shown tremendous interest in developing the Indian auto components industry as a sourcing centre for their worldwide operations. At the beginning of 1996 there were 250 foreign collaborators (mainly from Japan, UK, USA, Germany) operating in India. In the first eight months of 1996 37 new joint ventures were finalized. Wholly owned subsidiaries, such as for instance by the GM owned Delphi Automotives, are also being set up.

The auto components industry has now emerged as a sector with competitive advantage. Exports in 1995-96 were of the order of $ 250 million. Parts were exported to the plants of GM, Mercedes, IVECO, and Daewoo. Fuel injection parts, motorcycle components, gears, break systems, spark plugs and accessories were some of the chief export items. A sustained annual export growth of over 20% is expected in the future. Industry experts also foresee a continuation of recent trends away from single component parts to complete systems. This would add to the value creation potential of the industry.