just the odd mention of a small outbreak in an area of China. Now it is a global epidemic.
India is the second most populous nation in the world with 1.38 billion people and like the UK it is now in total lockdown for three weeks. But being India, after initially complying with the order to stay indoors, most recently there has been panic with internal migrant workers fleeing Delhi and other big cities to escape back to their family homes – potentially taking the virus with them of course. The Indian Government had already stopped international and national flights and tourist visas. Now of course arrangements are being made by various countries to try and airlift home those visitors trapped within the country.
India has hugely varying religious and social cultures and huge discrepancies between the very poor and the very rich. At the time of writing the country had around 1,000 active cases of the Covid-19 virus and over 100 deaths. When we left just over three weeks ago there had been just one reported case but no deaths.
Around 68% of the Indian population are classed as rural dwellers which is surprisingly high when you consider the size of major cities such a Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. India has around 250 million registered vehicles ranging from motorcycles, cars, buses and commercial vehicles of all types and conditions. Although new car sales have slowed, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the most up to date figures show close to 5-million new car and CV sales in the last year and 20-million motorcycles.
India for the year 2018-19 had been the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world producing just over 4-million cars out of a total of 30.9-million motor vehicles ranging from motorcycles to three wheelers, cars, vans, small to huge CVs and tractors. Over 13 million people are employed directly or indirectly in the industry despite a 13% drop in demand for passenger cars last year. BMW, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, JLR, Mercedes, MG Motor, PSA Group, Renault/Nissan, Toyota, Porsche, Skoda and VW all produce cars in India in addition to the country’s own brands.
By far the largest new car sales brand in India is Suzuki-Maruti and their models command no less than seven places out of the top ten new car sales chart. Their annual domestic sales are around 1.8-million units sold through 3,000 dealers and service centres.
This latest visit to India was our fifth in just over a decade so we have seen most of the main areas of the country but each time we go we see changes have taken place, mostly for the better as far as the quality of life for the majority of the population – but not for all. There has been huge investment in the country’s infrastructure with new high tech businesses, new roads, new houses, improved schooling and health facilities and a fast growth in tourism. The country has, in normal times, over 10.5-million visitors annually, many Brits, Australians and this time we saw more Americans and Germans than on previous visits. There also seemed to be many more domestic Indians visiting more of the traditional tourist sites such as temples, palaces and forts.
To grow tourism and potential domestic wealth huge sums of financial support has been given to the country by the Unesco World Heritage Fund and areas like the arid Thar Desert now rely less on a nomadic camel herding way of life and now more on tourism. Traditional craft and souvenir stalls and primitive villages are now commonplace along the many new tarmac roads which cross the desert. Of course in many of the major towns and cities where tourism still injects money there are still slum areas. The on-going conflict between India and its neighbour Pakistan and the occasional skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims in India itself still take place.
Our latest trip to our favourite part of India was to the princely state of Rajasthan which includes such cities and regions as Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, The Thar Desert region of Khimsar, Dechu and Jodpur then on to Udaipur and back to Delhi for our flight home. This time more than a 1,000-miles was covered in our tour coach with another 300-miles internal flight back to Delhi for departure back to the UK – all in two weeks.
This tour was never supposed to result in an editorial piece, but these troublesome times have prompted me to ‘fire up the PC’. So I delved into our photographic image files and came up with the following generally motoring based pictures with brief captions just to give a flavour of this fascinating country. If you haven’t been to India go once this health nightmare is over. It’s a fast changing country mostly to the betterment of the residents, until coronavirus came along of course. Miles Better News Agency