In a letter to Mr. Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport, road safety activists have welcomed the passage of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill 2019 which has critical amendments to the MV Act crucial for strengthening legislation related to road safety. These include a much-needed increase in penalties, the inclusion of the Good Samaritan provisions, the stringent measures to ensure key safety measures such as the use of helmets, seat-belts and child restraints, the holding to account of any authority, road contractor or consultant for faulty roads, the culpability of parents of juveniles for violation of rules, provisions for the electronic monitoring and enforcement of road safety, etc. It may be recalled that the Bill was passed in April 2017 in the first term of the NDA Government, but was blocked in the Rajya Sabha owing to concerns from States about provisions seen to dilute their rights and privatization of State Transport Undertakings (STUs).
“Those concerns still very much remain, since many of the contentious clauses have not been retracted by the Ministry, so we hope that the Government has a plan to ensure its passage in the upper house”, said Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar which is part of the National Road Safety Coalition. “Not a single opposition party objected to the clauses in the Bill related to road safety, which is a very positive sign”, he added. The Minister himself acknowledged his failure to reduce road crash fatalities and reiterated the importance of the Bill in helping to save lives.
“With a large number of Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha unless the Ministry makes this Bill a priority and engages with the opposition, we fear that the much-needed amendments for improving road safety will get delayed”, said Amar of CEE, also a coalition member.
With more than 400 people dying in road crashes every day, any delay in the passage of the Bill is a matter of concern for most road safety advocates. The coalition is hopeful that a more determined Minister and the extension of the Parliament session by 5 days may result in passage of the Bill.