The NDA government has been working on a slew of initiatives to fix problems relating to the road transport sector. Citizens have been complaining about many of these problems for years now and this government has mustered the political will, in the face of resistance from some states, to tackle the bull by the horns. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari was not exaggerating when he termed these were big reforms in the transport sector being introduced for the first time after Independence. The Union Cabinet has given its nod to the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016 with the objective of making road travel safe, convenient and seamless.
Some of the provisions of the bill concern the citizens directly. It proposes a fine of Rs 10,000 for drunken driving and seeks to hold guardians responsible if juveniles are found driving a vehicle. Besides, it aims to eradicate corruption in Road Transport Offices, increase the quantum of compensation for victims of accidents, simplify the process of insurance settlements and streamline registration of vehicles, issue of driving licences and transport permits. The government plans to do all this by implementing technology-driven e-governance systems — automation and computerisation and enabling online services — which will make the process both transparent and easy to use without present hassles, which breed corruption.
It remains to be seen if increased penalties will reduce drunken driving and juvenile driving in particular and driving without licence or reckless driving in general. The government wants to reduce road accident fatalities by half. One hopes the measures it has outlined will go a long way in achieving that target. In addition, creating appropriate institutional mechanisms such as the national road safety and traffic management board, which is being contemplated, is critical as is public awareness.