| Worn-out Ambassador cars parked at Vikas Bhavan and (right) at Sinchai Bhavan in Patna. Pictures by Ashok Sinha |
The Amby will continue to be Bihar’s most important car though Hindustan Motors is shutting down its Uttarpara plant in Bengal, where it was manufactured since 1957.
Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and his predecessor Nitish Kumar still go around in the Ambassador, modelled on Britain’s Morris Oxford.
The grand old lady of India’s pot-holed roads has certainly lost some sheen with the advent of sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Hindustan Motors cited lack of demand for stopping production. But the curvaceous “monster on wheels” still has a small but steady market in Bihar’s government sector. “Just two months ago, the disaster management department bought several Ambassador cars,” said a transport department official.
Many ministers and senior bureaucrats have switched to SUVs, but Manjhi and Nitish travel in bulletproof Ambassadors. Some junior-level officers in the state, too, use Ambassadors. Transport department sources said the car accounts for 10-15 per cent of government vehicles.
Patna district transport officer Dinesh Kumar Rai said: “There was a time when the Ambassador was the only luxury car available, a status symbol. Almost all government vehicles used to be Ambassadors. However, over the past decade or two, a number of luxury cars better than the Amby in terms of technology and comfort have hit the market and replaced the Ambassador.”
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, has preserved a 2003-model Ambassador. “Though I do not use it anymore, it has been kept carefully as I have precious memories attached to it,” he said.
But automobile experts claim the shutdown of the production plant does not necessarily mean it would not be visible on the streets any more.
“Due to Ambassador’s not-so-sophisticated machinery, mechanics are easy to find. In fact, these days, non-Hindustan Motors spare parts work on it. Even if the factory does not reopen, I believe Ambassador cars will continue to run in India for at least another decade,” said Wing Commander (retired) Narendra Kumar, honorary secretary, Automobile Dealer Association of Bihar.
The management of Hindustan Motors’ Uttarpara plant skipped a tripartite meeting called by the labour department on Tuesday in connection with suspension of work, reports PTI. Bengal labour minister Purnendu Bose said the management did not turn up but sought a bipartite meeting with the government. “We feel it is discourteous on the part of the management to not respond to the call. But keeping in mind the interest of so many workers, we will hold a bipartite meeting with it on May 29 in my room,” Bose said.