July 23, 2018
Manish Gupta speaks on The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017
Sir, I oppose The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2017. Sir, at this juncture in the resolution of our democracy, we need to look back at history. If we look back the year 2014, a Bill had been brought Road Safety & Transport Bill, several objections were raised by state governments and as a result wisely that Bill was dropped. But, you find again now in a consorted and planned move to subvert the principles of federalism, enshrined in the Constitution, another law is being brought to centralise the powers and the responsibilities of road transport in the Central Government.
So, modern legislation and we make modern legislation we need to be careful to see that the modern responsibilities, the future evolution of command and control of such a vital area of human activity is not overly centralised.
The states have always shown a huge responsibility historically, the states are responsible for road transport, because it is entwined and connected with the everyday lives of the people. It is concerned with social transformation, economic development, livelihoods and economic growth. Hitherto, the ethos in the country has been to de-regulate stringent or archaic provisions of law like the regime of permits. But here in this new proposal or, act, we find that new issues are being brought up, permits, licencing, schemes, this is further convoluting the entire atmosphere. The responsibility of states in the Constitution, the state governments have to administer all types of economic activity. But here in this Bill, we find that the central government seeks to abrogate to itself all powers and controls that are required in this sector.
It is actually an issue which seems to be States versus Centre and several provisions we have seen in this attempts to further centralise control, and this is very disturbing. We have talked about making rules in this act. You see rules are the provision over the act, where it seeks to clarify the basic tenets or, what has been announced in the Bill in this case.
But, here everything we want to discuss in this select committee, the chairman was quite eloquent in describing how we had gone about it in a spirit of federalism.
But every issue that came up in the Select Committee was sought to be pushed into the rules. Now this is a very dangerous precedent. What should be in the basic Act is sought to be papered over, is sought to be pushed into the rules so that at a later day the Executive bypasses Parliament and creates provisions of Law and control which are quite in conflict with the federal nature of the Constitution.
I’ll just refer to some sections here. Section 66(A) seeks to evolve a National Transportation Policy. The question is, there are so many policies we have in this country, we have Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, none of these policies are enshrined in any Law or statute. But here they are seeking in this Bill to provide a legitimacy which is unnecessary by putting a national transportation law or a National Transportation Authority inside the Act. The Standing Committee, we had earlier examined various provisions of this Bill, were quite concerned, when they saw this provision and said that you should not proceed further in the matter without consulting the States.
We observed in the Bill and through several discussions, that any and every recommendation of the Standing Committee has been rejected, has not been given any importance, then what was the use of setting up a Standing Committee which had gone through detailed deliberations if their recommendations have not been accepted.
There was a Section 56, in which the Central Government seeks to declare or to opine or to regulate the age of Motor Vehicles. But even in this section, they say that even non-transport vehicles will be brought under this Act. Now 80% of vehicles in India are non-transport, that means that they are seeking to bring the entire vehicle population and causing distress to so many thousands and lakhs of owners of vehicles by asking them to produce their vehicles at the fitness centers. This raises the question, when we raise this question in our Select Committee, the ministry said that this was just an enabling provision. What is the idea of enabling provision means, at a later date they will bring in these 80% private vehicles. This is the apprehension.
The question that arises out here is, is the Central Government trying to bring in privatization or corporatization of the transport sector. If all vehicles have to go to private fitness centers, then it is a corporatization; if all permits, licenses are tendered by the Central Government, then all these small operators – those who own one or two buses – would be pushed out of contention. Along with them those people they employ on a daily basis will become unemployed. This is again the specter of previous legislations that have been bought like GST or Demonetization which has caused largescale unemployment. This is also going to cause unemployment because if corporate sector comes, there will be a corporate culture. Obviously the local level, district level, village level all those levels, those sectors will be wiped out. We had urged in this select committee that this provision should be deleted. But we find that this recommendation was not accepted. Why should you have an enabling provision to bring in 80% of private vehicles? Your stated intention is to bring in just commercial vehicles. You have said the Bill but you have not amended that section by saying that non transport vehicles should be brought in.
Similarly this way we find that there are provisions 66 A and 88A, where new schemes of license and schemes have been brought in. Where are we trying to deregulate, where in a democracy which progresses, our progressive country, the country which is vying for economic development and social transformation. In that country we are bringing in more regulation, more permits, more schemes so this causing confusion and there is lack of clarity in this exercise. We feel that to avoid monopoly of companies brought into the private transport sector the livelihood and the future of the travelling public is going to be in danger. In Section 136 it was stated that entire policing, monitoring and digitalisation of all system in the national highway have to be done by the State Government, and this is a huge expense. National highway is the responsibility of the National Highway Authority and this is being passed to the State without any scope or funding. So this Bill, new taxes are sought to be levied but the constitution does not provide for that. How can a statute on motor vehicles circumvent the powers of the State Government to levy taxes that is provided by the constitution and sooner or later it will be challenged in a court of law.
I don’t think that the people of India will let this pass. There were certain suggestions made in the Select Committee, many clauses that would need amendments. I want to say the basic flaw in this Act is that, instead of simplifying matters and instead of giving more power to the State Governments, which have historically for 70-80 years put in efforts in the transport sector to control it for the betterment of the people and for economic upliftment. I would request all the States who believe in federalism, who believe in the constitution, who believes in the future of India to come forward and oppose this Bill. I have asked TDP in Andhra Pradesh, TRS in Telengana, YSR in Andhra Pradesh, AIADMK and DMK in Tamil Nadu, RJD in Bihar, AAP in Delhi, BSP and SP in UP, BJD in Odisha, Congress and others that if they believe in federalism, if they believe in the brighter future of the people of India, believe in progress and creation of livelihood and the removal of unemployment and economic disparity, please come forward and oppose this Bill.