The right direction, finally: Why the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill is truly a historic turn
The Bill is a huge victory for every road safety activist in the country. It is also a significant help for every road accident victim. It will act as a deterrent and reduce accidents.
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For the last three years, the government has assiduously battled myriad opposition to the landmark Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, with the Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari, virtually cajoling stakeholders to support this Bill in human interest. As someone who has worked closely on road safety, I have been privy to this opposition, ranging from the penalties being too harsh to the states’ powers being diluted.
The fact was that the rampant corruption in RTO offices invariably enjoyed a political nexus — a nexus cultivated over the years by the Congress culture. And that explains why even after the suggestions of many state governments were incorporated and the views of the Parliamentary panel were also weaved in, the Bill could not get the nod from the Rajya Sabha, where the government didn’t have majority.
It was an easy option for the government to just let go — after all, reducing road accident fatalities can never really dictate political discourse. This is where the character of the government truly stood out. It never gave up — rather, it stuck to its commitment with even greater determination.
Driving change: Nitin Gadkari pushed hard for the passage of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill. (Photo: ANI)
Now, the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha marks a victory for every road safety activist in the country. It marks a historic moment in India’s public transport discourse and it is bound to make Indians more responsible road users in the years to come.
As most of us are aware, road safety is a function of 5 Es — education (awareness), enactment, enforcement, engineering and emergency care.
While most of the buzz around this enactment has revolved around the higher penalties that will come into force now, the fact is that this Bill is unique because of its all-pervasive nature.
In a first, the Centre will develop a system for cashless treatment of road accident victims during the golden hour — which is the time period lasting one hour after a traumatic injury during which there is the highest likelihood of preventing death by providing medical care. Besides, citizens who come forward and rescue accident victims will not be harassed, as already specified by the SC guidelines on good Samaritans.
This will boost the emergency care component, which is critical in preventing fatality.
Crucial help: The Bill ensures cashless treatment for road accident victims in the golden hour after a severe injury. (Photo: ANI)
Secondly, as we are all aware, obtaining driving licenses illegally has been a huge problem in our country over the decades. It is estimated that around 30% of the driving licenses are illegally acquired. This Bill addresses this scourge as well.
Obtaining a driving licence (DL) will now get tougher if one doesn’t have adequate skills as the driving test will become technology-driven, reducing human interface to curb corruption. Currently, license testing is manual and untrained people also get licences.
The proposed changes in the Act gives power to the Centre to make rules for the authority that issues licences. A national register of driving licences will be created that will comprise licence data from across the country to make transfer of vehicles across states easier and weed out fake DLs. Most importantly, the amendment makes Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining a driving licence and for vehicle registration.
Thirdly, the government will now have the power to regulate taxi aggregators such as Ola and Uber.
Till now, the law did not recognise cab aggregators. By incorporating the word ‘aggregators’ in the Act, the Centre will have the power to frame guidelines for these companies and make them more compliant.
A new meter: For the first time, the govt will be able to regulate taxi operators like Ola and Uber. (Photo: India Today)
Moreover, for the first time, an automobile manufacturer will have to recall motor vehicles in case of a defect that causes damage to the environment — also, road contractors will need to be careful as they can be penalised heavily for faulty road designs.
In another unprecedented move, in the case of traffic violations by juveniles, the guardians or owner of the vehicle would be held responsible unless they prove the offence was committed without their knowledge or they tried to prevent it. The registration of the motor vehicle in question will be cancelled. Moreover, the juvenile will be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.
Finally, the most obvious immediate deterrent to rash driving is heavier penalties. Whether it is for drunken driving, rash driving, driving without seat belts or over-speeding, the penalties have been increased manifold. As someone who has witnessed the fall in drunken driving cases in Mumbai over the years due to heavy surveillance and penalties, I am sure that increased penalties will have an immediate impact.
Since transport is in the Concurrent List, there will be a crucial onus upon states to ensure that they adopt all provisions of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill.
On an issue that involves the life and well-being of nearly five lakh people in the employable age group every year, room for any compromise should not exist.
The Motor Vehicle Amandment Bill is a critical catalyst in the government’s mission to reduce road accident fatalities in the country by 50%.