A coalition of road safety organizations urged the Government to get the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill passed in the upcoming session of the Parliament. Road safety experts have called the passage of the Bill, which seeks to make key amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, as being critical to improve the dismal road safety record in the country. Despite being monitored closely by the Supreme Court, road fatalities only decreased by 3% in the last year (2017), far from the target of 50% reduction by 2020 that has been set by the Government in accordance with the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety. Indeed, even with this slight reduction, there are still 1.46 lakh people dying on India’s roads every year, each one of which is an unspeakable human disaster and each of which is preventable. The Road Safety Network strongly demanded Rajya Sabha to pass the MVA Bill, which will make a significant impact in reducing the deadly carnage on our roads.
The Amendment Bill strengthens many provisions of the current law, which has proven ineffectual in curbing the daily slaughter on the roads in India. The Bill proposes hikes in the fines and the quantum of punishment for some of the serious violations of traffic rules and introduces new penal provisions for poor design and maintenance of roads.
Victims/survivors of road crashes– Ashutosh Soti , Kavita Tholiya, Kavita Chauhan,D K Sachdeva, Dorris Francis raised their voices in support of passage of motor vehicle amendment bill 2017. They narrated their personal agony of losing members of the family or getting seriously injured in road crashes and appealed to the parliamentarians of not mixing politics in this issue since this is about saving lives on road at press interaction meet organised at press club of India by national coalition of road safety organization.
Dr. Satyanarayan Jatiya , Hon’ble Member of Parliament , Rajya Sabha and Senior leader BJP also came forward to support the initiative and strongly favoured the passage of the bill. Shri Oscar Fernandes, Hon’ble MP, RajyaSabha and Former Union Transport Minister also said that each and every life is important and to have safer future passage of bill in the Rajya Sabha is crucial.
Saroja of CAG, which has been advocating for the passage of the bill in southern States, said “there is almost unanimous agreement about the provisions in the bill related to road safety, however disruptions in the Parliament are holding up the passage of this very important bill. There is a need for the Government and political parties to come together in national interest and immediately pass this bill.” George Cherian of CUTS International, which deposed before the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill said that, “the Select Committee has, while clarifying many issues, recommended no amendments to the bill as passed by the Lok Sabha. It is now the moral responsibility of the Government to ensure passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha”.
Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer VOICE, said that every crash leaves an indelible scar on the family and the community, but that daily crashes are making society numb and reducing these to just statistics. “We have therefore brought together survivors of horrific road crashes and victims’ families to tell their tales, lest we forget that real flesh and blood people are losing their lives on our roads.”
Ranjit Gadgil of Pune-based Parisar reminded that while high profile cases such as the death of Cabinet Minister Gopinath Munde and more recently the involvement in an accident of Smt. Jashodaben, wife of Prime Minister Modi, shows that road crashes kill irrespective of stature, the crores of urban poor, especially those involved in work on the roads, such as drivers, labourers, sweepers, vendors and wastepickers are extremely vulnerable due to their high exposure. “A severe injury or death in a poor family can leave them devastated, emotionally and economically,” he said. Provisions in the Bill such as increase in compensation in hit and run fatalities from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 lakhs are long overdue, he felt. A recent World Bank report pegs the 20-year loss in national income due to road accidents at Rs 17.64 lakh crores.
The coalition expressed concern that Government’s inability to get the bill passed in the budget session might spell doom for the Bill due to upcoming elections. “Failure to get the MV Act amended will be a major blow to the cause of road safety in the country. India’s failure to meet its international commitment will be a big blot on the record of Mr. Gadkari, who has in the past made road safety a personal agenda,” the coalition stated.