July 23, 2019
Saugata Roy speaks on The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Sir, I rise to speak on The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019. I want to quote a Bengali poet, Sukanta Bhattacharya, who had said, ‘Bolte paro boromanush motor kano chorbe? Ar gorib kano shei motorer tolay chapa porbe?’, which means, ‘Can you say why the rich man will ride cars/ And why the poor will come under those cars?’. Toh aaj sawal yeh hua ke itne gari hain, itne log hain lekin jo marte hain woh gareeb aadmi hain. Aur iske barein mein Gadkari ji ne jo kadam uthaye uska main samarthan karta hoon.
Sir, there are two parts to the Bill. One part I support, where he has made the fines very strict on all sorts of traffic offences, and in the other part he has interfered in the realm of the State, which I oppose. I will speak on both the parts separately. Before that let me state that there is an urgent need for a road transport policy. But not like Gadkari ji has proposed in the Bill. There is a need for a separate urban transport policy and a national highway transport policy.
All our cities have terrible traffic jams, including Delhi. To avoid those, we are building more flyovers. Now, these flyovers only serve car owners. More flyovers, more cars, more pollution. We must reduce the number of cars on roads in cities like Delhi and shift more people towards public transport. This means not only the Metro but also modern low-floor buses, with trolleys if necessary, trams, which are pollution free, bus rapid transit systems with dedicated bus corridors, electric buses, for which the budget offers many concessions, are good for avoiding pollution.
But we are far behind many other countries. China sells twice as many electric vehicles every month that we sell in a whole year. One isolated introduction of ethanol buses in Nagpur or electric vehicles in Pune will not solve our urban transport problems. Safety on highways is a major concern in the country. In 2017, the total number of road accidents were 4,64,000 and the number of deaths were 1,47,913. In 2016, the death toll was 1,50,000. These deaths are more than those caused by diseases and pestilence. Road accidents are killers and this is clearly unacceptable.
That’s why I support the various steps taken to reduce road accidents, that include strict provisions for offenses like juvenile riding, riding without a license, rash driving, drunk driving, over-speeding and overloading. On all these, penalties have been increased.
But one objection I have is that the Bill proposes a fine of Rs 10,000 for not providing way to emergency vehicles, and I find that this is not being implemented. If I am in a toll plaza and an ambulance is honking from behind, how will it be possible for me to move my car when there is no space? And then get fined; this is not fair, I have given an Amendment for this – please look into it. Aggregators violating driving licence should be fined up to Rs 1 lakh. The Bill includes penalties in the range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 for over-speeding while driving without insurance will be punishable with a fine of Rs 2000 fine, and driving without helmet will attract a Rs 1,000 fine and three months’ suspension of license.
There is provision for deeming the guardian or owner of a vehicle to be considered guilty in the case of road offence by a juvenile, while registration of the vehicle will be cancelled. The traffic violation will now extract a penalty of Rs 500 in place of Rs 100 earlier. Disobedience of orders by authorities will attract a minimum penalty of Rs 2,000 in place of Rs 500 earlier. Penalty for unauthorised use of vehicles without license has been proposed as Rs 5,000 while for driving without a license, you have to shell out Rs 10,000.
Another two good features of the Bill is that a Good Samaritan who helps people at the time of accidents they will be spared trouble. The aggregators, as I said earlier, will be fined a heavy sum if they are not listening. Penalty for dangerous driving would be increased to Rs 5,000. Drunk driving would attract a fine of Rs 10,000.
All these are steps which I wholly support. You were not able to reduce accidents, maybe just by 3 to 4 per cent. Tamil Nadu has decreased accidents to the extent of 14%. But the main thing is the enforcement, not just strict law. And who will do the enforcement? The State police. So if you make a Central legislation without taking the State on board, without hand-holding the State, you will never be able to implement your strict laws. That’s why I would like this part to be left to the State and do hand-holding to the extent possible. You have created Motor Vehicles Insurance Fund. You have created a National Road Safety Council, which I support. There should be one. You have asked the highway builders to be more conscious of design and other matters.
So these are welcome. While coming into the State, there is not much that Gadkari ji has done. Gadkari ji is a dream merchant.He has dreamt of good transport in the country, but it is not that he will be able to implement all that he is speaking of, but we need dream merchants in this country who can think big, whether he says that there will be a cruise ship of 10,000 in Mumbai or that electric busses will run on highways. This will take a long time to fructify but that you are thinking on those lines, thinking how to make our transport better like it is in Paris, or how to introduce fast rapid transport like in Curitiba in Brazil. It’s good to dream on these lines so that we make at least some progress on these matters.
Lastly Sir, I point out where my objections to the Bill are. One is to Clause 19, which is removing the requirement of production of a motor vehicle before its registration before the registering authority. You say that there is corruption in the RTO. But this corruption in the RTO will now be transferred to the dealers. Why are you giving them that opportunity? Let them produce before the motor vehicle inspectors one car before it is registered so that they can check if it is mechanically sound at that time.
The other clause that I object to is Clause 30 which speaks about establishing a planning network for passenger and goods transportation, within which transport bodies need to operate. So the present scheme of state transport undertaking and interstate agreements will be nullified and transport bodies will be operating this scheme with a new Motor Vehicles Act.
The Central Government is not vested with any power to make laws derogatory to the interest of a State-owned transport corporation. The Central Government almost opened the gates of the private sector for operating passenger transport services under the guise of a scheme at the cost of State transport corporations. Corporates should not enter as yet into the transport field. Transport has to be subsidised and provided for by the Government, mostly State Governments.
Sir, again, Clause 34 attaches new sections to the Bill. The scheme under Section 88A is not for operating state carriages by corporations exclusively owned by the Central Government, as provided under Section 108 of the Central Act. It is totally intended for the operation of corporate bodies, of course with the Central Government holding some share. Such a corporate body cannot be equated with the instrumentality of a State Government, with full financing by it. That’s why I say that I have objection to only five clauses in this whole Bill.
The Transport Standing Committee headed by Derek O’Brien pointed this out in its report. It proposed that non-interference in the area of the State. You do hand-holding, you guide them how to do it because you have better expertise, better resources.
We also want highways where cars will run at 120 with motels and petrol pumps on the way. We want beautification of all the lands near highways. We want our highways to be dream highways. We want our cities to be free of pollution from cars. We do not want to build flyovers for the rich only. We want a country in which communication will be the privilege of the poor.
While supporting all the safety provisions in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, I say, extend your hand to the State Government and take them on board. Implement the Motor Vehicles Act for a better and safer country. Thank you, Sir.