BARABANKI, India Things are changing in India. Towns that were once quiet and rural are now spilling over with concrete buildings, crowded streets, and clattering vehicles. It's the cars that are the biggest indication of change. They are signs that India has something it has never had before—a large middle class that is made up of people who have money to buy things to make their lives easier. In India, cars are a source of comfort, but they have also brought new problems, like traffic and pollution.
"I remember when cars were for rich people," said Dharmendra Srivastava, age 32, who sells cars at a dealership in the town of Barabanki. "Today, everyone in India wants to have a car: the city people, farmers, everyone."
Srivastava was a kid when his country began an economic transformation. It was 1991, and India faced a number of financial problems—so the government made changes to the economy. It began to exchange goods and services with other countries, a step called globalization, which sent money flowing into India. Today, India has one of the world's fastest-growing economies, with a middle class that is scrambling to buy items that were once considered luxuries by all but a small percentage of the population.
Cars are among those items. Customers can now buy anything from a $2,700 Tata Nano to a $712,000 Ferrari FF. Indians bought about 2 million cars in 2010, 25 percent more than the year before. As a result, car production has skyrocketed, and India has paved more than 500,000 miles of roads in the past two decades. Much like owning a car was part of the American Dream in the early 20th century, it is part of the "Indian Dream" now.
Mohammad Ismail, a middle-school teacher whose income is $600 a month, had never driven a car before 2010, but then, after a co-worker bought a car, Ismail decided it was time. He purchased his own vehicle, taking out a loan that he is slowly repaying.
"When I was a little kid, I dreamed that one day I would get to sit in a car," said Ismail, smiling broadly. "Even that seemed like a far-off dream."
Ismail says that cars have had a major impact on the town where he lives.
"Five years ago, my village had just one car," Ismail said. Then the first paved roads came, setting off a cascade of car-buying and more road-building, of people buying cars to keep up socially with friends.
Cars have helped link thousands of long-isolated villages to cities and towns, and they have given more people access to jobs, schools, and medical care. People talk about the schools their children can now attend that were once too far away.
There are downsides to this surge of automobiles, however. India now has an abundance of traffic jams. The cars have also brought choking pollution, as well as by far the world's highest number of road fatalities—more than 200,000 a year.
Since India has a population of 1.2 billion people (the second highest in the world) and more people buying cars all the time, these issues will only get worse. What happens when hundreds of millions of people have cars?
Cars have brought something else to India: an illusion that the entire population is more prosperous than ever. Although the country's middle class is growing, poverty continues to be widespread in India. In 2005, 42 percent of the total Indian population lived on less than $1.25 a day. Even as growing wealth is allowing Rolls Royce to expand its presence in India, more than 400 million people still live without regular electricity.
Cars remain out of reach even for most car salesmen, who are struggling near the bottom of India's middle class on salaries that seldom hit $500 a month and are often much lower. Yet it's their job to sell customers on the wonder of owning an automobile, while they share the desire to purchase cars of their own.
The salesmen and many others wait for the day when they can have a piece of India's dream.
fatality (noun) death resulting from illness, accident, or disaster
illusion (noun) something that is different from what it seems
Multiple Choice: Circle the letter of the choice the best completes the statement. (2 points each)
1. What cause-and-effect relationship is described in this article?
Solving pollution issues created by cars in cities
Solving population growth problems in Asian countries
6. The news article states: Cars have brought something else to India: an illusion that the entire population is more prosperous than ever. Although the country's middle class is growing, poverty continues to be widespread in India. Which would be the closest synonym for the word prosperous?
7. Which question is not answered by the article?
How have cars helped to give people better access to jobs, schools, and medical care in India?
How do cars create the illusion that everyone in India is prosperous?
What changes did the Indian government make in 1991 to address its financial problems at the time?
What will happen when hundreds of millions of people in India have cars?
8. The author probably wrote this article to __________.
Highlight the pros and cons of the growing number of cars in India
Suggest that Indian officials should limit the number of cars they allow to be sold
Determine what needs to be done to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in India
Compare and contrast the "Indian Dream" with the "American Dream"
Opinion Question: Do you think the good things that have come from more car sales in India are worth the problems caused by the cars?
Math Question: In 2010, the people of India purchased 2 million cars. That's an increase of 25 percent from 2009. According to these numbers, how many cars did the people of India purchase in 2009?
Thought Question: Line graphs are visual tools that can be used to show a range of data over a period of time. The line graph below shows car sales for some countries in four different years:
Study the line graph. Which country showed the greatest increase in car sales between 2009 and 2010? How do car sales in India compare and contrast with car sales in Russia from 2009 to 2012? Be sure to include facts from the line graph in your answer.