While driving back from Vibrant Gujarat summit I was happily ruminating the good news that the last four years, we have jumped 65 places (from 142 to 77) in the Global Ranking of World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) index.
As I am from a generation of cynical masochistic Indians, I know that we will have enough people to find faults in this, but if you are a young Indian who is not looking for excuses to not go out and get it, it is great news. You have a nation on the rise.
As my car contained young techies from Artificial Intelligence sector setting up a venture in Ahmedabad, I was keen to know their view on the matter, but before I can engage them with the subject, my car caught their attention.
I am lucky (or rather unlucky) that I drive a first world car loaded with Artificial Intelligence. It is almost capable of autonomous driving, as it can follow lanes, read traffic lights, sense objects all around it and even apply breaks if need be. So, for a group of young techie in AI space, my car was more exciting a subject than EODB rank.
While they were going gaga over features of the car, I was struck by a strange realisation. My car and Indian traffic were alarmingly analogous to these bright kids and Indian economy.
When I drive the car on roads of Ahmedabad and watch its artificial intelligence struggle with utter madness of lane-less driving and law-breaking, I really feel that the car will end up with a nervous breakdown soon.
It is worth noting that the car is designed for nations that also top the list of Ease Of Doing Business. It offers a smooth and stress-free journey where lanes are clearly marked and citizens follow the rules. As traffic rules are a contract between state and citizens, they are honoured by the citizens these nations, and those who violate these rules are punished hard by the state.
For the kids armed with enormous amount of human intelligence, our policies and economy are now offering good roads to drive on, but it is the lawless business environment that is the real challenge.
Their entrepreneurial journey is going to be more about dealing with constant law-breaking by others instead of pushing technology boundaries.
The more I think about looking at traffic as a microcosm of a nation’s economy, the more interesting it gets. If I rank lawless driving from my experience, I feel that Ahmebadad tops the national list.
Most metros are getting stricter with their law-enforcement, but Ahmedabad refuses to grow up. Reforms such as e-Challan are thwarted by public anger, because we as a city just don’t want to learn.
Unfortunately, a strange correlation can be seen between Ahmedabad’s unruly traffic and city’s rank in EODB. As World Bank has also published ranks of 17 Indian cities, there is not prize guessing that Ahmedabad is ranked 16th in the most crucial “enforcing contracts” parameter.
Let us face it. Not just our lawless traffic, but even the World Bank rank tells us that we are almost the worst city in India in following what we have agreed upon.
If we don’t reform quickly, we will be left behind not just by the world but by other cities of India.
The young kids who are eager to take India to its new dawn are not going to wait for long. And once they leave, Ahmedabad economy will surely be down in dumps, as this is a new age where technology is the only key to economic prosperity.