India’s transport minister plans a more melodious traffic flow

Raucous vehicle horns to be replaced by sounds of classical Indian instruments

India’s federal transport minister plans to institute nationwide legislation replacing raucous vehicle horns with those emitting melodious sounds of classical Indian musical instruments.

"I am studying this ... and planning soon to make a law that all vehicle horns should produce pleasant sounds like those of the flute, tabla, violin, mouth organ and harmonium," Nitin Gadkari said at a highway inauguration ceremony at Nashik, near Mumbai.

He also said his ministry aimed to do away with "irritating" police and ambulance sirens and replace them with the "agreeable" signature tune relayed daily by the government-run All India Radio station.

“I want to put an end to sirens and am thinking of substituting them with the tune composed for the radio station, so that people feel pleasant when ambulances or police patrol cars pass by,” Mr Gadkari said. Their sirens, he added, were also harmful to human ears.


Incessant honking by vehicles is endemic across India, even at stop lights, as drivers weave their way through chaotic traffic along crowded highways or across congested and narrow pot-holed city and small town roads.

Vehicle dealers say one of the first things potential customers in India check out before making a purchase is the loudness of the horn.

"The horn is a critical part of any vehicle we sell ," said Govind Rana, a popular jeep brand dealer in Chandigarh, 250km north of New Delhi. Many customers, he added, demanded more powerful and noisy air horns.

Last year Mumbai police came up with a novel strategy to discipline unruly drivers who incessantly blew their horns at traffic lights even when they were red.

They connected a decibel monitor to several city traffic signals which reset the red-stop light every time car and other horns exceeded 85 decibels, doubling the wait time.

The message was simple: The more cars hooted, the longer they waited at traffic signals. And though this deterrent worked for a short period, traffic officials said honking levels had reverted in recent months to former cacophonous levels.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi