Indian roads have been monstrous killers, exterminating one individual every 4 minutes. Recent clamour around road safety is set to bring positive changes.
In 2007, a study (Bertrand et al) was conducted to understand the process of getting a driver’s license in Delhi. The study tested the driving ability of those individuals who had hired a tout to get their license. An overwhelmingly two-third of them failed the test, yet legally they were allowed to be behind the wheels which they didn’t know how to manage. Juxtapose this with the number of deaths on Indian roads in a year, 1.5 lakhs reported and you will realise, how our systems have failed to keep our roads safe.
In this context, the recent passage of Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by Lok Sabha is a monumental effort, with all parties supporting the Bill. If Union Road Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari’s thundering words are an indication, things seem to be moving in right direction. “Even I, being a minister, will not be able to get a licence without going through the processes of passing the exams and tests”, he said. As per the Bill, The services like issuance of license would be made transparent by digitising them. Stronger punitive actions would be taken against the officials, in case of delay in issuing of the document to the eligible individuals.
The Bill also has provisions for higher penalties in case of traffic violations and seeks to reduce road accidents by making vehicle manufacturers accountable for design defects. The earlier drafted, Road Transport and Safety Draft Bill, 2014, had envisaged a Motor Vehicle Regulation and Road Safety Authority of India, which would have been accountable only to Parliament. This Authority would have been responsible to set safety norms, and finance road and vehicle safety programmes. This would have brought uniformity in the regulation and plugged the loopholes. Unfortunately, some states found this an encroachment in their domain and the ideas was shelved. Apart from the Bill, several other executive actions by government, viz identification of black spots, measures for better road designs, etc should be lauded. “I believe saving lives is more important than building highways. Once we (NDA government) complete 5 years, we would be able to save 50 per cent lives lost due to road accidents”, Gadkari had said during his speech. More power to Minister and his initiatives.
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