Few recent accidents, in various parts of the country in the last few days, have once again brought into focus the need to enhance road safety.
Why be concerned about this?
- In India, over 1,40,000 people die and more than 5,00,000 suffer serious injuries every year in road crashes.
- Between 2012-14, there were 60,000 cases of accidents caused by underage drivers. However, the legal provision to deal with this is weak.
- Under the existing Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, the fine for allowing an “unauthorised person” (the provision does not mention a minor) to drive a vehicle is Rs 1,000 or three months of imprisonment or both.
What’s the solution?
The solution lies with the government. It has to make arrangements to get passed the Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 as soon as possible.
Road Transport and Safety Bill:
It is a Bill which aims to provide a framework for safer, faster, cost effective and inclusive movement of passengers and freight in the country thus enabling the mission of ‘Make in India’.
Highlights of the Bill:
- It aims to save 2 lakhs lives in first 5 years due to reduction in road traffic accident deaths.
- It also aims to improve GDP by 4% on account of increased efficiency and safety of road transport sector.
- 10 lac Jobs will be created with increase in investment in the sector.
Important provisions in the bill:
- The new Bill makes significant departures from the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act as it includes safety in construction, design, maintenance and use of motor vehicles and roads as a major component.
- The Bill provides for more stringent penalties to offenders. A graded penalty point system would now act as a deterrent and improve traffic condition whereas electronic detection and centralized information of offences would facilitate to identify repeat-offenders.
New proposed Agencies and systems:
- The Bill proposes to introduce an independent agency called the National Road Safety Authority of India, which will be an independent, legally empowered and accountable expert lead agency. It shall be accountable to the Parliament and Central Government.
- The new Bill provides for the establishment of State Safety Authorities which shall act in accordance with the directions issued by the National Authority.
- The Bill seeks to establish a unified driver licensing system in India which will be transparent. Such a system shall facilitate any time anywhere licence application mechanism in the country and mitigate duplication of licences from various regional transport offices.
- According to the Provisions of the Bill there will be a unified vehicle registration system to enable electronic and online submission of applications for registration at any registering authority leading to real time interchange of data relating to such an activity.
- On the safety issues, the Bill envisages for enforcement of modern safety technologies.
- It also contains the provision for creation of a motor vehicle accident fund for immediate relief to the accident victim. It gives special emphasis on safety of school children and security of women.
- The Bill also includes the setting up of a Highway Traffic Regulation and Protection Force (HTRPF).
Why are some against this Bill?
- Some people are not happy with the proposed provision in bill. They say the proposed fines are too high.
- According to provisions of the Bill, the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 will be scrapped and State RTOs will close. Instead, a Central authority will be created and private entities will issue and renew licences. This move is not being welcomed.
- The provisions in the Bill are also said to be against the principles of jurisprudence.
- Some state governments allege that the bill encroaches upon the financial, legislative and administrative powers of state governments.
Countries that have had the most success in reducing the number of road crash deaths have achieved this by improving legislation, enforcement, and making roads and vehicles safer. India is not on the list of improving countries. Instead, 10 per cent of the global deaths in road crashes happen here. This is a result of the obsolete Motor Vehicles Act, which fails to protect the most vulnerable users of the road, determine who is allowed to drive, or assign accountability for faulty road design and engineering. The government must now take the bold step by removing some contentious clauses and focusing on road safety alone.