Responding to the strike called by transport unions against the Road Transport and Safety Bill and reports of significant dilution of the draft Bill, road safety organisations and affected families from across the country have called on the Government not to compromise on the safety of road users. “My 23 year old daughter, a brilliant doctor, was crushed by a lorry on 9th September 2014. My heartfelt request and plea to the law makers of this country is – Please do not dilute the road safety bill. Please do not buckle under pressure from various lobbies”, urges Dr. Shubhangi Tambwekar from Bangalore who established the Arundhati Foundation in memory of her deceased daughter.
In the latest version of the Bill uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, the Government has slashed penalties to as low as 500 rupees, even for life threatening traffic violations. It has also significantly diluted the powers of the proposed safety regulator by creating provisions to supersede its authority. Piyush Tewari, Founder of SaveLIFE Foundation notes, “It seems the Government is going back on its promise to introduce a strong road safety law. This, despite losing a union cabinet minister to a road accident less than a year ago”.
According to NCRB, in the last 10 years, over 10 lakh people have been killed on India’s roads. Five times more people have been left seriously injured or permanently disabled. Last year, after Union Cabinet Minister Gopinath Munde died in a road accident, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari promised that a new law with best practices in road safety will be introduced to replace the archaic Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. The first draft of the Bill was released on 13th September 2014 followed by three more versions till date. A national survey conducted by SaveLIFE Foundation on the first draft of the Bill, reported overwhelming public support for strict provisions. Sharing the concerns around dilution since the first draft of the Bill, Pramod Bhasin, Managing Trustee of the Jaipur-based road safety organisation, Muskaan requests, “All the road safety aspects must be retained in the bill. There should be no compromise”.
Various transport unions across the country have called a strike on 30th April to protest the strict safety standards sought in the Bill, which have already been watered-down by the Government. “We have the worst road safety record in the world and all that the transporters can think of is to strike at a time when their focus should be the Nepal tragedy and getting relief supplies to the needy”, said Commodore Ranbir Talwar, Executive Director of the Indian Head Injury Foundation. “Safety benefits all. To agitate against better road safety is highly irresponsible”, adds Indrani Malkani, Core Trustee and Secretary of Mumbai-based NGO, V Citizens Action Network (VCAN).