‘Road ac­ci­dents are as hor­ri­fy­ing as plane crash’

Au­to­mo­bile body chief says that the Cen­tral Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles’ Act should be amended.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

Road ac­ci­dents snuff out nu­mer­ous in­no­cent lives across the coun­try every year. In an exclusive in­ter­view to The Sun­day Guardian, T.K. Mal­ho­tra, pres­i­dent, Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion of Up­per In­dia (AAUI), spoke his mind on road safety and re­lated is­sues. Ex­cerpts: Q. Road safety stan­dards in In­dia have not seen any im­prove­ment since the past many years. Where do you think we lack in pro­tect­ing the lives of in­no­cent peo­ple who die in ac­ci­dents? A: Road ac­ci­dents amount to one death every three min­utes, or 480 deaths every day in In­dia and it is as hor­ri­fy­ing as a com­mer­cial air­liner crash. Un­til May 2011 when the UN Global Road Safety Week was launched, the press­ing is­sue cul­mi­nated in the sym­bolic Road Safety Week to be ob­served in the first week of every new cal­en­dar. Un­for­tu­nately, road safety mea­sures have not been ad­e­quately im­ple­mented across the coun­try by the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties. This gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre, in con­sul­ta­tion with the states and other non-gov­ern­men­tal stake­hold­ers, drafted the Road Safety Bill. How­ever, our par­lia­men­tar­i­ans could not pri­ori­tise the Bill on the dis­cus­sion agenda in Par­lia­ment. The Sun­dar Com­mit­tee on Road Safety and Traf­fic Man­age­ment, with which I was as­so­ci­ated as a Spe­cial In­vi­tee, sub­mit­ted its re­port in 2007 for con­sid­er­a­tion by the Par­lia­ment. The re­port fi­nally ap­pears to be in line for con­sid­er­a­tion af­ter about seven long years. Mean­while, pend­ing in­tro­duc­tion of crit­i­cal re­forms in the Cen­tral Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles’ Act 1988 (un­der the Road Safety Bill), valu­able lives con­tinue to be lost in road ac­ci­dents. Q: Do you think a strin­gent law could bring down road ac­ci­dents in In­dia? A: En­force­ment of road safety rules is as im­por­tant as mak­ing the law it­self. Proac­tive, con­tin­u­ous and dili­gent en­force­ment is the sin­gle most crit­i­cal fac­tor that can make a dif­fer­ence. Ex­ist­ing ini­tia­tives to en­gage stu­dents and vol­un­teers as traf­fic man­age­ment war­dens has been largely in­ef­fec­tive as road safety and traf­fic man­age­ment re­quires spe­cialised knowl­edge and skills. Q: In the past few months, cases of over speed­ing by pri­vate ve­hi­cles in Delhi, caught on CCTV cam­eras, have led to deaths — such in­ci­dents have also hap­pened across the coun­try. How can over speed­ing by pri­vate ve­hi­cles be checked? A: A few years ago, a spe­cial force of traf­fic po­lice was formed with 200 mo­tor­cy­cles, and was flagged off from In­dia Gate in Delhi by the then Lt-Gov­er­nor. The ini­tia­tive, to stop speed violations, re­ceived much pub­lic­ity, but there was no progress two months af­ter its launch. Q: Some cars of big au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­ers in In­dia re­cently failed to pass the crash test. How can the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try en­sure that their man­u­fac­tured ve­hi­cles are safe? Should airbags in cars be made manda­tory in In­dia? A: No mat­ter what ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies are used to con­struct ve­hi­cles, it ul­ti­mately de­pends on the at­ti­tude of the per­son sit­ting on the wheels for its safe ma­neu­ver­abil­ity, and com­pli­ance with road safety norms. How­ever, airbags are one of the most im­por­tant safety fea­tures, and are re­quired to be fac­tory in­stalled in every new ve­hi­cle al­most across all coun­tries glob­ally.

In In­dia, the tech­nol­ogy for driver and pas­sen­ger airbags should be man­dated as a stan­dard fea­ture in all new ve­hi­cles en­ter­ing the mar­ket. The Cen­tral Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles’ Act should also be amended to man­date use of rear-fac­ing in­fant car seats and front­fac­ing tod­dler seats in In­dia and strin­gent en­force­ment and heavy penal­ties for vi­o­la­tion should be pro­vided in the Act. Q: Do you think that the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try “lobby” is at play to stop the gov­ern­ment from bring­ing in a strin­gent road safety and trans­port law? A: I do not think that the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try in our coun­try is averse to en­dors­ing road safety and traf­fic man­age­ment en­hance­ments. The So­ci­ety of In­dian Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers (SIAM) is an ef­fec­tive body and has al­ways sup­ported the cause of road safety in the pub­lic in­ter­est. Q: Trans­port be­ing a state sub­ject, do you think that the process of is­su­ing driv­ers’ li­cences should be re­formed? A: The driv­ers’ li­cenc­ing sys­tem in In­dia should be made more strin­gent, and a for­mal driv­ing train­ing ed­u­ca­tion should not be a choice, but a pre-req­ui­site for a driver’s li­cense ap­pli­ca­tion like in many de­vel­oped coun­tries. Knowl­edge re­fresher tests should be man­dated for Light Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle driv­ers, every five years from the date of is­suance of their driver’s li­cence.

The el­i­gi­ble age to drive should also be re­duced to 17 years from 18 now as the present gen­er­a­tion is more ma­ture than those in the past. Q: What can be done to check the in­creas­ing num­ber of ve­hi­cles be­ing reg­is­tered to re­duce the load of traf­fic on roads? A: Ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 new ve­hi­cles are reg­is­tered daily in Delhi, when there are over eight mil­lion ve­hi­cles on Delhi roads al­ready. The present road in­fra­struc­ture does not al­low for such high vol­umes of ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic, and pre­vents ef­fec­tive road safety en­force­ment. Daily reg­is­tra­tion of ve­hi­cles should be ra­tio­nalised. The New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gramme (NCAP), in­tro­duced in Europe many years ago, is the need of the hour for In­dia. Es­ca­lat­ing their move­ment for en­act­ment of the “Ro­hith Act” to erad­i­cate al­leged casteism on univer­sity cam­puses and herald­ing an “era of so­cial jus­tice”, the Left in Jawarhar­lal Nehru Univer­sity is draw­ing like-minded stu­dents from across the coun­try to the univer­sity cam­pus for a two-day na­tional con­ven­tion of stu­dents slated to be held on 15 and 16 July.

Mem­bers of dif­fer­ent Left­ist stu­dent groups in JNU like AISA, SFI, AISF and more have been work­ing closely in re­cent weeks to go to uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try to mo­bilise stu­dents and draw stu­dents and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the JNU stu­dents’ con­ven­tion.

“We have sent small groups of stu­dents to var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try like Hy­der­abad Cen­tral Univer­sity, Ali­garh Mus­lim Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Na­tional Con­venor and Delhi Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal an­nounced the de­ci­sion to con­test the Gu­jarat Assem­bly elec­tions, due next year, while he was vis­it­ing the state on Satur­day.

Kick­start­ing the party’s cam­paign, Ke­jri­wal asked the peo­ple of Gu­jarat to sup­port him. “If you want me to fight, you will have to give money, you will have to go to each house and seek votes. We will to­gether teach a les­son to these cor­rupt peo­ple,” Ke­jri­wal said to an en­thu­si­as­tic crowd.

In a day-long visit to the state with his party col­league Ku­mar Vish­was, on Satur­day, he also an­nounced the party’s de­ci­sion to con­test all the 182 Assem­bly seats in the state. His visit also came with the party work­ers demon­strat­ing against the de­mo­li­tion of slums and lack of ba­sic ameni­ties in Ra­jkot.

Ke­jri­wal’s sched­uled visit to Su­rat, on Sun­day has been how­ever can­celled as the trade body that in­vited Ke­jri­wal has with­drawn their in­vi­ta­tion. “My orig­i­nal pro­gramme of Gu­jarat was for two days. To­day we were to visit Som­nath and to­mor­row we had a meet­ing sched­uled in Su­rat. But Anandibenji put un­due pres­sure on busi­ness­men in Su­rat and got our pro­gramme can­celled. I don’t know why Anandibenji is afraid of me,” Ke­jri­wal said. BJP na­tional pres­i­dent Amit Shah on Satur­day termed the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) and the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) as “Rahu-Ketu”, who could not usher in de­vel­op­ment in Ut­tar Pradesh. Rahu and Ketu are two detri­men­tal plan­ets ac­cord­ing to Hindu mythol­ogy.

Ad­dress­ing a party rally in Mau in UP, Shah said: “SP and BSP are like ‘Rahu’ and ‘Ketu’ which are eclips­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the state. Ut­tar Pradesh’s de­vel­op­ment is not pos­si­ble in their regimes.”

“The de­vel­op­ment ‘ rath’ (char­iot), which has started

T.K. Mal­ho­tra

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