The Act saw fines increase manifold for breaking traffic rules such as driving without licence and insurance, riding two-wheelers without wearing helmets or four-wheelers without seat belts, and carrying more passengers than a vehicle’s capacity.
Expressing disappointment over the strike by auto-rickshaws, buses, and private aggregator cabs called by the United Front of Transport Associations (UFTA) in response to the heavy penalties imposed under the amended Act, Gadkari said “I’m surprised that people are protesting against a law that has been created in national interest. If one obeys the traffic rules, one shouldn’t have to worry about heavy fines."
This comes at a time of opposition from some states starting with Gujarat to the fines that were implemented from 1 September. States ruled by BJP such as Karnataka and Uttarakhand have followed suit. Maharashtra, the home state of road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, is yet to notify the fines. Non-BJP states such as West Bengal said they will not implement the fines, calling them “harsh". Besides stringent rules and stiff penalties, the Act provides for a 10% increase in fines every year.
Speaking at the launch OF ‘Safe Safar’, a health and road safety programme by Transport Corporation of India (TCI), Gadkari stressed upon the need of awareness related to road safety among the Indian population and the impact on families caused by accidents due to unsafe driving.
“This act is to not raise revenue but to save lives and prevent loss of the GDP due to untimely deaths," said Gadkari.
After a long wait of three years, the Act was passed by Parliament and received the President’s assent on 9 August. It seeks to improve road safety and impart discipline among citizens by imposing stiff fines for breaking traffic rules. The Act contains as many as 63 clauses pertaining to fines and driving licences among others.
Gadkari pointed out that approximately 5 lakh deaths take place in India each year due to violation of traffic laws. Out of this, 55% of the dead are in the 18-35 year age group.
Gadkari added that the amended Motor Vehicle Act has already brought in positive effects, with people now carrying their driving license, pollution certificates and reduction in the pollution levels in Delhi.
Gadkari also flagged off a specially-fabricated ecologically compatible truck that will make stops across all major truck terminals and industrial parks pan-India to spread awareness about road safety. The government in collaboration with TCI has created a variety of cartoons, as films to create awareness regarding road safety and is also training drivers as well as commuters.