GS 2, MAINS: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was recently passed by Rajya Sabha. The Minister of Road Transport & Highways reiterated that the Bill would, in no way, encroach upon the powers and authorities of the states. He said the Bill would rather empower the states. He added that the Bill will provide an efficient, safe and corruption free transport system in the country.
The amendments in the Bill mainly focus on issues relating to improving road safety, citizens’ facilitation while dealing with the transport department, strengthening rural transport, last mile connectivity and public transport, automation and computerization and enabling online services.
GROWING IMPORTANCE OF ROAD SAFETY TO INDIA:
India loses over 1.5 lakh lives in road traffic accidents every year. The country has only about 2% of the world’s motor vehicles but accounts for over 12% of its traffic accident deaths, making the Indian road network the most unsafe on the planet.
Unsafe roads are a public health hazard, approaching, in India’s case, an epidemic that not only kills and maims, often for life, but also harms the country’s economic health. According to a study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, road traffic accidents cost India nearly 3% of its gross domestic product a year, or, in absolute terms, about $58,000 million.
Globally, the countries that have succeeded in reducing road accident deaths have done so by enacting strong laws for road safety. India, on the other hand, has been trying to strengthen its road safety legislation for three decades, to no avail.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS OF THE MOTOR VEHICLES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019:
Road Safety: In the area of road safety, the Bill proposes to increase penalties to act as deterrent against traffic violations. Stricter provisions are being proposed in respect of offences like juvenile driving, drunken driving, driving without licence, dangerous driving, over-speeding, overloading etc. Stricter provisions for helmets have been introduced along with provisions for electronic detection of violations.
Vehicle Fitness: The Bill mandates automated fitness testing for vehicles. This would reduce corruption in the transport department while improving the road worthiness of the vehicle. Penalty has been provided for deliberate violation of safety/environmental regulations as well as body builders and spare part suppliers. The process for testing and certification for automobiles is proposed to be regulated more effectively.
Recall of Vehicles: The Bill allows the central government to order for recall of motor vehicles if a defect in the vehicle may cause damage to the environment, or the driver, or other road users. The manufacturer of the recalled vehicle will be required to reimburse the buyers for the full cost of the vehicle, or replace the defective vehicle with another vehicle with similar or better specifications.
Road Safety Board: The Bill provides for a National Road Safety Board, to be created by the central government through a notification. The Board will advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management including standards of motor vehicles, registration and licensing of vehicles, standards for road safety, and promotion of new vehicle technology.
Protection of Good Samaritan: To help road accident victims, Good Samaritan guidelines have been incorporated in the Bill. The Bill defines a Good Samaritan as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident, and provides rules to prevent harassment of such a person.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES FURTHER:
The most effective way to reduce fatalities and injuries would be through an integrated approach involving close collaboration of many sectors. Progress is being made in many parts of the world where multisectoral strategic plans are leading to incremental reductions in the number of road accidental fatalities and injuries. Such strategies focus on four key factors that contribute to the risk of occurrence of a road accident – exposure, behavioral factors, road environment, and vehicle factors.
The problem of road accidents in India also gets aggravated due to mixed nature of road traffic on its roads – with pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws, taxis, vans, cars, trucks, and buses sharing the same road space. In other words, the same road network is used by different categories of motorized and non-motorized vehicles, of varying width and speed. To reduce the exposure to risk, there is a need not only to segregate fast moving from slow moving vehicles and heavy from light vehicles but also enforce speed limit on fast moving vehicles.
Road accidents and related injuries and fatalities are highly dependent on the speed of motor vehicles. While in many developed countries, there is increasing use of in-built mechanisms in trucks and buses to restrict speeds above a certain limit, such devices are rarely used in India, if installed, are disabled by the operators. The time has come to strictly enforce the implementation of speed limits both on highways and city roads. In mix traffic environment, restriction on vehicle speed would also help in reducing casualties to pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.
Time lost in traffic congestion in narrow parts of important roads and under developed junctions is a major cause for over speed and the resulting accidents. Renovation of such narrow parts of important roads and junctions will help to reduce traffic congestion and thereby reduce road accidents.
Potholes are another major cause for road accidents. All the roads in the country should be maintained properly. Permanent contracts should be in place for maintaining all the roads in good condition 24 hours a day, 365 days an year.
Video cameras should be installed at regular intervals in state highways, national highways , important / busy road and should be centrally monitored. All traffic violations, especially over speed, rash driving, non wearing of helmet / seat belt , using mobile while driving etc., should be penalised.
PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:
“Policy contradictions among various competing sectors and stakeholders have resulted in inadequate ‘protection and prevention of degradation’ to environment.” ” Comment with relevant illustration.
Explain the salient features of the constitution(One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016. Do you think it is efficacious enough ‘to remove cascading effect of taxes and provide for common national market for goods and services’? (2017)
Has the Indian governmental system responded adequately to the demands of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization started in 1991? What can the government do to be responsive to this important change? (2016)
Though 100 percent FDI is already allowed in non-news media like a trade publication and general entertainment channel, the Government is mulling over the proposal for increased FDI in news media for quite some time. What difference would an increase in FDI make? Critically evaluate the pros and cons. (2014)