The blue-eyed boy of the central Cabinet has failed to bring out the rabbit from his hat, at least for this time. Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Nitin Gadkari must have thought that he was introducing a path breaking law by introducing the new, heavy penalties for those violating traffic rules. But there seems to be another reason for the heavy penalties – seeking out every single penny from the pockets of already affected two-wheeler owners and motorists.
The new regulations aim at heavy penalties, but the money seems to be his contribution to the depleting coffers of the government. Claiming it to be a pro-poor government, the Centre slowly withdrew a slew of concessions to the senior citizens like the usual discounts on cooking gas and on top of it came the contribution of Gadkari. Without giving a second thoughts to the repercussions, Gadkari imposed heavy penalties, but where does the money earned this way go to, what use is it being put to. Does it help those injured in road accidents? Compensate the families whose bread winners were lost to road rage? Nobody knows what use the money is being put to.
Does Gadkari think that he will mend the ways of the habitual road offenders this way? If he does, he is absolutely wrong. There are many who take pride in not wearing helmets on a two wheeler or putting on the seat belts while riding a car. They flout traffic rules shamelessly and try to show off that they have ditched the traffic cops. There are many who jump red light with impunity trying to show off their driving skills. Where is the traffic regulatory authority that time?
There are many who tend to take a short cut by driving on the opposite lane of traffic , they cannot take an extra detour of 100 metres to get on to their routes. Then there are those who consider it below their dignity to wear a helmet while driving a two wheeler, so they simply carry it and put it on their heads at the sight of a cop. Who will penalise them? They simply get away with it.
Talking of penalising those who drive without a driving licence or registration certificate of their vehicle, can Gadkari make it clear that to carry original documents of the vehicle cab dangerous. In case the vehicle is stolen, there will be no proof left of ownership with the rightful owner.
Then there are those who can violate traffic norms with impunity and get away with it. For instance putting a political party flag on the car’s bonnet provides safety against stoppage by traffic cops. Drivers of petty netas and political parties tend to show off their power by breaking rules and not being stopped for it.
An example of this was witnessed at Rouse Avenue round about near a five star hotel one fine afternoon when a flag bearing car hit from behind my car damaging the rear bumper. Whose fault was it? The car that hit from behind or the car that was hit from behind by some petty netas car? Interestingly there were two traffic cops stationed near the round about supposed to be monitoring traffic, but it seems they were busy chatting rather than checking the flow of traffic. They flagged my car to stop, which I did thinking that they will get me compensated for the hit, but no, it was the other story altogether. One of the cop asked me why I applied brakes which caused the rear car to bump into my car. I simply told him that had I not done so I could have hit another vehicle in front. The car in the rear was driving bumper to bumper keeping no safe distance, this was the claim of the traffic cop. Does the traffic cop know road regulations himself? Why should two vehicles drive bumper to bumper, not keeping the mandatory distance . So he admitted that the car behind was the erring vehicle. But he asked me blatantly “Do you know whose car was it?” I simply replied I was concentrating on the front traffic and not peeping backwards.
So the fault was of the driver of the car at the back. But petty netas and politicians are out of reach of traffic cops, so how could he blame the car driver at the rear? He did not even stop the car which had hit from behind. What inference does one draw from this incident? That one has to be a petty political neta to be out of bounds from traffic police.
I recollect the fatal accident involving a State run bus who killed a scooterist and then sped away. The family of the deceased took the matter to the Motor Accidents Compensation Tribunal where I faced another shock of my life when the defence lawyer blamed me for lying. He said that there was no accident, this in spite of the fact that I gave the registration number of the bus. I was not dreaming. The incident had occurred somewhere around 9 p.m and I had immediately contacted the nearest police station. To my surprise the cops had suggested that I should not get entangled in the matter, I might have to face the court. I insisted and lodged an FIR. The family of the deceased finally got compensation.
Today, if at all, the Minister should bring a law against pedestrians who cross roads from anywhere and everywhere signalling the oncoming traffic to a halt. That time one feels like he is living in a village where pedestrians cross streets anywhere after stopping the traffic. The Minister had turned a blind eye to such occurrence which is responsible for fatal accidents partly. The pedestrians are a holy cow for the Minister.
If he was serious in curbing road accidents then he could have imposed suspension of driving licence as a penalty starting three months to the seriousness of the crime. The practice is followed in European countries.
There should be no exemptions like drivers of government vehicles or political parties. These are the culprits who consider the roads their private properties. This scenario must change otherwise he has created nothing but promoting the beginning of a police “raj”, more so in the rural belts where the road users are unaware of their rights and duties. Monetary penalty is no deterrent for the shameless owner of the vehicle, but suspension of licence will definitely be a deterrent affecting his daily routine and budget.
————— By Amit Mittal————–