July 31, 2019
Manish Gupta speaks on The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Sir, I rise to oppose this Bill.
Sir, we have no difficulty, as the Minister has pointed out, regarding the measures taken for safety and the provisions for saving lives of the travelling public. The Minister has also mentioned in his opening remarks that this issue was raised in the Conference of Transport Ministers of India. But, Sir, we find that there is an increased incidence of not referring such inter-State cases, cases involving States of the Union, in the Inter-State Council. Our Chief Minister has repeatedly said that the Inter-State Council is a constitutional body, created under article 263 of the Constitution. So, rightly, when such sweeping changes are being brought to the Motor Vehicles Act, this matter should have been discussed in the Inter-State Council.
Sir, in 2014, the Road Transport Safety Bill had been brought. Several States raised objections and, finally, the ruling dispensation had the sense to drop the Bill. Likewise, in this Bill too, as some speakers have pointed out, road safety is a facade. Nobody has any difficulty with road safety. It is a welcome move. It should be done. But the Budget outlay is only Rs. 364 crores, and most of the provisions in the Bill do not relate to road safety.
They relate to measures being taken to curtail the independence of the State Governments. Sir, all States in the Union, over a period of time, in the last 72 years, have done a sterling job in bringing about social transformation and economic development, creating livelihoods and rehabilitation and bringing poorer people into the mainstream. But this has been ignored and lack of trust has gained more space as far as the Centre and States are concerned. Cooperative federalism has taken a backseat. I would be going into the details of particular clauses, but, Sir, economic growth is something which the State Governments are responsible for. This particular Amendment Bill seeks to bring in permits, licenses and various other measures, which are entirely in conflict with our axioms, our idioms and our belief that regulations must be reduced. That is the drift of rule-making. As society progresses, you have to bring down the controls. You have to give independence to the
people. That is not happening. Exactly the opposite has been reflected in this Bill. Instead of deregulating the stringent and archaic provisions, they have brought in more and more controls.
Sir, Clause 66(a) seeks to evolve a National Transportation Policy. The Minister has stated that those States which are not interested need not participate. This is the same statement which was made by him in the Lok Sabha. But there is no provision in the Amendment Bill to say specifically that those States which are not interested can opt out. Sir, in this country, we have a monetary policy; we have a fiscal policy; we have a foreign policy; we have an export policy. None of these policies is enshrined in any Statute. Therefore, why does this National Transportation Policy require additional legislative legitimacy? This is not justified. In fact, there are many policies. This policy could have been way outside this Bill, so that it has scope for developing what all the States feel needs to be done.
Sir, the Parliamentary Standing Committee had dwelt on these amendments. Not a single recommendation, I repeat, not a single recommendation, of the Standing Committee on this particular Bill has been incorporated in this Amendment Bill. We had several meetings of the Select Committee too. I was a Member of the Select Committee and the Chairman is here too. We observe that although the State Governments made several recommendations and raised several objections, not a single objection has been converted into any word, letter, amendment or change in this Bill. So, the spirit of cooperative federalism was lost even before this Bill was brought to the House.
That is why there is a need to put forward in front of people that there is a move to privatise the transport sector and corporatize the transport sector. Several Sections are there like 66A and 88A. The State Government has been provided with several powers under Section 67 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act. Sections Clauses 66A and 88A tend to override the State’s power entirely. In this respect, the Minister has stated that the State has State Corporation Act. But that is not enough. Encroachment on the powers of the State means you don’t trust the States. If you have to develop this country, then you need to have trust between the State and the Centre. The entire drafting seeks to demean the position of the State. In Section 136, the Central Government seeks to put out the expense of maintaining, monitoring and repairing National Highways on the State Government. There is no source of funds. But they are also trying in other clauses here to circumvent the State’s power to levy taxes.
States levy motor vehicle taxes under the State List of the Constitution. The Concurrent List provides for administration of motor transport. But those have been given a short shrift and the basic power of the States to levy taxes has been passed on to private dealers. So, this is very unfortunate. There are sections like Section 56. It is extremely dangerous. It was discussed in the Select Committee. This Section 56 refers to non-transport vehicles which deals with administering a certificate for fitness. More than 80 per cent of the vehicles in this country are non-transport vehicles. When this matter was brought before the Select Committee, unfortunately, the officials who came from the Transport Ministry said, “Don’t worry; this is just an enabling clause.” What is this enabling clause? Enabling clause means you, on your own sweet will, can decide the fitness; you can decide the category of all vehicles on your own as they are all non-transport vehicles.
Sir, Clause 23 deals with non-transport vehicles. Under Clauses 66A and 66B State’s arena of operation is grossly encroached upon by the Central Government. Section 80D is very interesting. This clearly shows that the Central Government wishes to get into matters like last-mile connectivity, rural transport and improvement of the quality of life in the States. How can a statute like the Motor Vehicles Act circumvent the power of the State through an Amendment like this? Rural transport is the responsibility of the State Government. Quality of life, environment and everything is listed here. We brought this up in the Select Committee and asked, “Why don’t you delete these clauses; why are you encroaching upon the arena of the State?” But this was not heeded upon. Therefore, Sir, I oppose this Bill. There is also a small issue. During the pendency of this Bill, the Government made certain rules. You cannot make rules during the pendency of the Bill. This is in direct violation of the parliamentary procedure. But this has been done. I don’t know what Parliament is going to do about this violation. But this is certainly a serious matter and the dignity of Parliament is being encroached in Machiavellian manner.