It was in the early days of the Modi government (Aug 2014) that the Union Minister of Road Transport Mr. Natin Gadkari made a sensational statement “RTOs will be scrapped soon” Do you remember this? Yes. After he made the statement, nothing has changed except that a piece of draft legislation is prepared by name “Road Transport and Safety Act 2014”
This very draft Bill is the root cause of today’s (30th April 2015) strike called by transporters across India.
You may be aware that the death rate by road accidents in India is highest in the world. A report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed that every year, over 135000 road accident deaths occur in India. (Means more than 15 deaths every hour). Most of the accidents are caused by heavy vehicles including trucks, Lorries and buses.
Corruption in Road Transport
Coming to road transport corruption, again it tops the list among most corrupt departments. A report of Transparency International mentioned that RTOs extract bribes worth a whopping Rs.22,000 crore annually on India’s national highways, from trucks alone.
Road Safety Act and rules
So, what government is doing about increase in road safety and road efficiency? The present laws governing road transport, road safety and the movement of goods are too complex and outdated. The present Motor Vehicles Act 1988 is not covering road safety issues in detail. This has necessitated the introduction of a new Act “Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014”
The initiative of Modi government
The credit for introducing this Act (draft copy) should go to Modi government. This Bill has to be passed in the Parliament to become the law. Meanwhile, many stakeholders including the owners of transport vehicles are opposing this proposed legislature.
What are the salient features of the Bill?
- Set up Motor Vehicle Regulation & Road Safety Authority of India, an independent agency for vehicle regulation and road safety in the country. (this will create a unified regulation across the country)
- Safety – aim is to reduce the number of road accidents through scientifically planned and evolving framework for the safety of all road users in India
- It proposes adoption of new technology and standards with improved vehicle design for safer travel. (reason for opposition – automobile manufacturers, opposing the lead agency’s mandate to prescribe minimum safety standards for vehicles and the recall of defective vehicles)
- The bill proposed Unified Driver Licensing System, a simpler transparent, single window driver licensing system using technology and biometric system. It promises to simplify application and issuance procedures of driver licensing. It proposes private sector participation and usage of automated driving test for increased capacity.
- It proposes a Unified Vehicle Registration System integrating all stakeholders like manufacturer, owner, transport authority, insurer, and enforcement agency all in one eco-system with private sector participation in establishing fitness certification centres to create more jobs. It will make transfer of vehicles across states easy using online system
- Electronic enforcement in urban clusters using modern safety technologies with special emphasis for safety of vulnerable road users, creation of motor accident fund for immediate relief to accident victim, special emphasis on safety of school children and security of women
- National Freight Policy – Simplified permits and single portal clearances, identification and development of freight networks, address bottlenecks concerning trucking industry and increase in logistics efficiency will reduce inflation and enable Indian manufacturing to become globally competitive.
- Hefty penalty for violations: major causes of road accidents include overloading of vehicles and extreme fatigue under which most truck driver drive. In the event of an accident, it is the driver who will be punished. Truck owners or fleet operators who actually take the decision of overloading or make the drivers to work overtime go scot-free. The new Bill aims to hold such owners and fleet operators jointly and severally liable for accidents caused due to overloading or fatigue. (Reason of opposition by the truck owners)
- Adopting safety standards: compulsory wearing of seat belts, installing GPS, sale of old vehicles, etc is part of safety standards. All traffic violations to attract huge penalties. (this is the reason for opposition by the auto and small operators)
The proposed Act covers many aspects, other than the points covered above. You can download the entire draft act here.
Thought for the day
Accident brings tears, safety brings cheers. Better safe than sorry.