The National Road Transport and Safety Bill seems to have been forgotten as it has missed five deadlines for Cabinet approval. There is no consensus among the states with Tamil Nadu alleging that the bill is designed to encroach on the states’ financial, legislative and administrative powers. The bill has also been diluted several times, owing to pressure from trade unions and automobile lobbies, sources in the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways said. The joint secretary to the ministry said, “The draft bill is almost ready and will be presented for Cabinet approval soon. The bill aims to promote safety and regulation on the road, it will also help checking pollution levels, improve the driving licensing system and vehicle maintenance system by moving into automation method.” However, he refused to give a specific deadline.
According to the NCRB report, there have been 418,805 deaths due to traffic accidents in 2014, an increase of about 12.8% from 2013.
An MP from Odisha, Rabindra Kumar Jena, had tabled this bill in Parliament. “For the minister, the bill may not be a priority, but several lives are lost every day due to road accidents. How can he sit quiet over such an important bill?” Jena said.
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on many occasions has spoken about road safety and his commitment to bring a tough legislation. He also said “the matter falls under the Concurrent List and getting states on board is becoming a difficult task”. He said he has included in his draft bill a unified system of driving licence through online method, which would weed out corruption. The draft bill under preparation has increased the penalty heavily for violating traffic rules including imprisonment for some cases, which would act as a deterrent for violators. The fate of road safety is likely to be decided by the Cabinet soon, once the bill is presented before it.
Road safety organisations have accused the government of doing “too little, too less”. Anurag Kulshreshta, president, TRAX, Road Safety NGO, said: “This is the decade on road safety, but the government has has not done much.” He believes the “road infrastructure, lack of enforcement and psychology of the people are the major causes of road accidents in India”.