While one thinks of luxury cars and police-escorts when imagining a diplomatic convoy, Mexico’s Ambassador to India, Melba Pria, has chosen a traditional rickshaw as her automobile of choice – a big nod to local culture. “Before becoming an Ambassador, I had travelled in India and I had always travelled in an auto rickshaw. So I thought, why not? Millions of Indians use an auto rickshaw, why wouldn’t an ambassador use an auto rickshaw?” says Ambassador Pria.
India suffers from a suffocating pollution problem, with New Delhi’s air pollution the worst in the world, surpassing even Beijing, China’s notorious smog. Greenpeace India found New Delhi’s air in 2014 had an average of 142.9 micrograms per cubic metre of the pollutant particulate PM2.5 — which is over 50% more than the Beijing average. This reading is 13 times greater than the World Health Organization’s annual recommendation, and 3.5 times that of the India’s air quality standard. With that in mind, Ambassador Pria’s choice of vehicle has an eco-friendly quality to it – auto rickshaws use compressed natural gas instead of petrol, greatly reducing their carbon footprints. “This is the way that I want to contribute to the city that today is also mine. I am also a Delhite,” she explains to 101India.com in a video interview.
As the largest South American investor in India, the Mexican Embassy’s move could be considered a PR stunt. Nevertheless, Ambassador Pria’s championing of an Indian staple could lead by example for foreign delegates to take in consideration local culture and city-specific needs in their day-to-day dealings.
Mexican artist Sanko was commissioned to customize the embassy’s official vehicle, making sure it stands out from the sea of standard yellow and green auto rickshaws that swarm New Delhi’s streets. Meanwhile, the bold move has raised important socioeconomic questions in India – “If the Mexican Ambassador can travel in an auto rickshaw, why can’t India’s elite?” asks Jagadish Duggal, driver at the Mexican Embassy.