There seems to be absolute carnage in the automotive industry, with vehicle sales falling for the ninth month in a row. For an industry that is already under severe pressure to deliver on stringent environmental, safety and efficiency regulations, this meltdown couldn’t have come at a worse time. The industry in general expects a recovery towards the last quarter of this calendar year, but the July sales reports have dealt a fresh blow to their expectations.
The only good news amidst the pall of gloom came from the Indian Parliament, when lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha voted in favour of passing the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 (MVAB 2019). Although it still has to go through the Lok Sabha for scrutiny and approval of the amendments proposed by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, before the President stamps his final approval, this is being seen as a big victory for road safety crusaders. It is expected to have far-reaching implications across the entire road transportation sector, act as a deterrent and ultimately, lead to reduced accidents and fatalities on Indian roads.
Let’s review some of the fine prints in the bill. The MVAB 2019 proposes a multi-fold increase in the quantum of punishment for traffic offences. There is also a provision that allows the government to increase fines by 10 % every year. Secondly, the bill proposes protection of good Samaritans. This is a welcome move considering people who provide emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a road accident victim needs protection from any kind of harassment from law enforcement agencies, or even hospitals.
Yet another important proposal is to set-up a Road Safety Board, whose mandate would be to advise central and state governments on all aspects of road safety, including promotion of new technology. Likewise, there is a proposal to set-up a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund that requires the government to insure all road users in India, which among other things, will be used for cashless treatment of road accident victims in the golden hour.
The bill, among other things, also proposes a ten-fold increase in insurance compensation, gives government the power to order a recall if the vehicle is deemed unfit with wide ranging ramifications for manufacturers, establishing new standards for vehicle fitness and changes in the process of vehicle registration with the aim to reduce corruption at RTOs.
These are fine proposals, which if implemented in letter and spirit, promise to drive a huge positive change in the road safety situation of the country.
DEEPANGSHU DEV SARMAH
New Delhi, August 2019