The bill on road safety issues has many flaws and awaits lawmakers nod as people continue to die
Puja Bhattacharjee | June 3, 2015
Exactly a year ago BJP leader and union minister Gopinath Munde lost his life in a road accident. Woken by his tragic death, the government promised a stringent law on road safety. And, unfortunately it has remained a promise.
The road safety bill was drafted and comments were sought from the public. The bill received mixed reviews but inspired hope that it will contribute to safety on roads. But a year on, the bill is yet to become a law as it has not been taken up by the parliament.
In the last decade alone, India lost 1.2 million people to preventable road accidents. Another 5.3 million are disabled and disfigured for life. Every hour, 15 lives are lost due to road crashes in India - the highest in the world. 20 children (0-14) are killed every day in India in this road crash epidemic. According to a report by the planning commission of India, the colossal economic loss amounts to nearly 3 percent of India’s GDP.
Data compiled by SaveLIFE Foundation which is campaigning for a strong road safety bill shows that the road crash cost for 2014 (Rs 3.8 lakh crore) could have thus financed the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan for 29 years.
Similarly, under the prime minister’s ambitious Smart City project, each selected city will get central assistance of Rs 100 crore per year for a period of five years. The 2014 economic losses due to road crashes could have funded the Central Assistance for development of 847 Smart Cities.
The road safety bill though noble in intent has serious flaws. The steep penalties talked about in the bill are not considered a deterrent for road mishaps. Instead, critics argued that the family of the person responsible for the accident will be paying for his sins for the rest of their lives.
The bill notoriously ignores how many pedestrian or cyclist accidents it aims at reducing. The share of people using public transport or cycling is much higher than people using cars.
The policies are so flawed that whenever a city proposed a transportation project, it was more about making a flyover, improving the road infrastructure or widening a road. There was nothing about making good footpaths or cycle tracks or improving connectivity between two modes of transport.
Only 10-15 percent of the money on transport goes into Metro and BRT.
Wider roads do not solve the problem of congestion. Despite so many flyovers in Delhi we still have a lot of congestion because we have not been able to restrict the number of cars.
In its 10-point policy agenda for immediate government attention, SaveLIFE Foundation calls for a comprehensive national road safety law that addresses the establishment of an independent lead agency, statutes for safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, statutes for protection of children during commute and robust, scientific and standardized accident investigation and data collection system among others.
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