Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
[Click here to join the campaign by SaveLIFE Foundation in association with The Logical Indian and send a letter to our Rajya Sabha MPs for a stronger road safety law.]
It is no secret that India’s roads are among the most unsafe in the world. So much so that in our country the simple and most basic act of going to school has become hazardous – as in Etah earlier this year.
On January 19 this year, 25 people including 18 children lost their lives when their school bus met with a road crash in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh.
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) January 19, 2017
In the past decade, over 13 lakh Indians have lost their lives and another 55 lakh have been seriously injured in road crashes. Every day, 400 Indians lose their lives on the country’s roads, government data shows – a number that is steadily rising (there was a 4.6% rise in 2015 over 2014).
These numbers are astounding and should have prompted our policymakers to recognise this as an epidemic and taken corrective action long time back. But it never happened – until now.
One of the main reasons for escalating bloodshed on Indian roads is the existing legislation governing road safety in India: the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. This legislation has largely failed to ensure safety in transit for Indians, more specifically for the vulnerable road users. As the current law lacks a comprehensive and administrative framework for road safety, all efforts to contain soaring road crash fatalities have remained unsustainable so far.
On August 9, 2016, the Government of India introduced the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (MVAB) to fill the legislative gaps that keep Indians from being safe on the roads. This Bill was unanimously passed by Lok Sabha on April 10, 2016 and now awaits passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 can be read here.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (MVAB) can be read here.
On 31 March 2017, the Cabinet approved amendments to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The amendments are stringent on several fronts, to ensure further safety for the citizens. Some of the new provisions prescribed in the bill are 100% e-governance, checking for fake driving licenses and vehicle thefts, and heavy fines for traffic violators.
The penalty for drunk driving has been increased five times to Rs 10,000. Further, the driver can be booked for a non-bailable offence with imprisonment of up to 10 years, if such a (drunk) driving leads to the death of another person.
These changes in the Act demonstrate that the Ministry of Road Transport has sought “appropriate action” from the Ministry of Home Affairs to hold such drivers liable for culpable homicide under Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, which states: “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.”
Moreover, in the case of accidents, drivers will not be booked under the provisions of negligence but their action will be considered as a premeditated commitment of the crime, which will be punishable under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, depending on the consequences of the accident.
As reported by Hindustan Times, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the amendments are an effort to eliminate corruption in the sector. “No bogus driving licenses would be made and there would be no theft of the vehicles once there is e-governance,” the minister said.
Various other highlights in the amended Act include the following:
The amended Act has provisioned the facilitation of services for delivery to citizens and transporters. The issue of driving licenses, including learner’s licence and vehicle registration, has been linked to Aadhaar. The vehicle registration has further been linked to authorised automobile dealers.
The Centre will also set up a National Register for vehicles and driving licenses that will issue a unique registration number to prevent duplication with added security measures to avoid malpractices. The Act also empowers the Centre to recall vehicles whose components or engines do not meet required standards, with the manufacturer receiving a penalty of up to Rs. 500-crore.
The Logical Indian encourages all citizens to abide by the various traffic rules laid down by the government in an effort to improve safety and security in the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), comprehensive legislation which incorporates strict, appropriate penalties, backed by consistent, sustained enforcement and public education, has been proven to be a strong catalyst for changing behaviour, norms and public perception about road safety.
MVAB does exactly that by providing for stricter rationalised penalties, accountability of road concessionaires and engineers for faulty road design, child safety, safeguards for vulnerable road users, uniform licensing and many more reformative provisions which shall strengthen road safety in India.
Road safety activists representing scores of affected families from across the country have launched the “Road Safety at Risk” campaign. The campaign website, www.roadsafetyatrisk.in, allows citizens to send a letter to the MPs requesting them to ensure smooth passage of the Bill.
Hopefully, the voices of Indian masses will reach the Rajya Sabha MPs and they will act for millions whose lives are imperilled every day on Indian roads.
Click here to join the campaign by SaveLIFE Foundation in association with The Logical Indian and send a letter to our Rajya Sabha MPs for a stronger road safety law.
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