Most major cities in India have seen a drastic increase in gasoline powered transportation over the last three decades, mainly due to an unprecedented growth in the middle-income families. This has led directly to more vehicles on the road, and at the rate at which this demographic is growing, the noise is going to get much louder. However, this noise pollution is not from the noise of the engines. It is the noise from all the honking. This honking problem India is having is not easy to solve.
Cars, buses, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, in enormous quantities stuck on narrow roads, honk at every turn, during every pass, in road rage, and otherwise for no reason at all but to announce their presence. Not only does honking have minimal effect on dispersing the vehicles, it enrages people, and fills the roads with hazardous sound levels, affecting homes, businesses and schools, and most of all, everyone on the road. Citizens of India are taking steps to address the honking problem through gadgets and devices that would alert the driver of their excessive use of the horn. There is also a citizen pledge website to create awareness of the problem, asking people to adopt a no honking policy.
While these are steps in the right direction, India’s noisy problem is unlikely to be resolved through these initiatives alone. The gadgets can alert the driver, but the driver can silence the gadget, or simply ignore it. Another proposed idea is for the gadget to keep a count of instances of honking within a certain period. If the counter reaches the limit, the police can fine the driver. However, the police there is corrupt. It is known to harass and take bribes in return for looking the other way. Corruption at every level is open and understood, even expected. This is a fact of life in India. The gadget idea, however noble, will only work for those who take to the road quietly in the first place. Same thing applies to the volunteer website.
Noise from honking is only one source of road noise in India. This problem has another source that lets its presence known to everyone around. It is the loud music coming from cars. Some research has suggested that these are the “new” car owners, who have recently entered the middle-class, and loud music is one way they like to announce their entry.
While gadgets and volunteer websites can help bring the decibels down a bit, it will not make a dent in the level of noise reduction that is needed. If the law enforcement of India could be counted on obeying the laws themselves, people could be forced to obey the rules, and bring the noise down. However, this would still not be a long-term solution. This problem of honking perpetuates itself through frustration, and eventually, addiction. There is nothing that can be done readily to take away the frustrations, for the problem is deep-rooted and widespread. Addiction however, can be addressed through awareness and education.
Addiction to honking is first-and-foremost, an addiction, and humans have learned a great deal about addictions and their cures. From rickshaw drivers to public transport and personal vehicles, humans are the ones operating. A mass public awareness campaign, along with explanation of the hazards to health, along with prepaid addiction counseling, can lead to significantly higher adoption rate of the “I Won’t Honk” campaign currently running in the country.
However, that still leaves out the major contributors to India’s noisy roads, the next generation of middle-income families. Movie stars and sports personalities, who hold greater persuasive power than most over this demographic, must step up. If the country has any hope of getting the message across to the largest segment of the population operating vehicles, and addressing the honking problem, the Bollywood personalities must give something back to India through their voice. A well-placed humorous ad cajoling the audience not to honk on the roads could have a substantial impact. They must volunteer for these causes through which, they can leave a lasting impact on an entire nation.
Opinion by Amit Singh
I Won’t Honk Campaign