The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill pending nod in the Rajya Sabha could bring about a 20% decline in road accidents from the current 5 lakh a year, opines Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. The Bill provides for stringent penalties in cases of offences and violation of traffic rules, protection to good samaritans, recall of defective vehicle parts by auto companies, holding builders accountable for the poor quality of infrastructure and making vehicle owners criminally liable for violations committed by juvenile drivers.
Currently, India stands with the highest number of road accidents in the world at 5 lakh road accidents a year, out of which about 1.5 lakh people die. Gadkari was addressing an event at Rajghat after jointly flagging off Suraksha Yatra - a motor rally with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
The rally will cover 7,250 km in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It will also spread awareness about road safety. V Kalyanam, 96 years, Personal Secretary to Mahatma Gandhi who was present there will also be participating in the motor rally.
"When the latest road accidents data comes in March, we expect about 15 to 20 per cent decline...I feel pained on such a high number of accidents in which most youths in the age of 18 to 35 years die. We could not get much success in preventing accidents and resultant deaths but due to consistent efforts, there was a decline of 4.1 per cent in 2016 and 4.75 per cent in 2017 in road accidents," the minister said.
He said the country lacked 22 lakh drivers and fake licences is one of the major issues and to address this, the government was setting up motor training centres where issuing of licences will be done electronically.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha, was introduced in the Upper House in April 2017 but was referred to a select panel. After taking into account the panel's recommendations, the Bill was re-introduced in the Rajya Sabha and is still pending there.
Steps are also on to curb faulty road engineering and the 786 black spots causing accidents are being addressed, he said. The minister also said campaigning is also on to create awareness among masses and school children were also being imparted the training of rules of roads.
He said his ministry has already set several records in building highways, tunnels and bridges and now, the biggest challenge is to reduce the accidents by at least 50 per cent. Gadkari also remembered the Father of the Nation, saying that the rally while advocating road safety will reach the places related to Mahatma Gandhi.
Swaraj also urged people to adopt behavioural changes as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi saying that without this, technical intervention alone cannot curb the menace. She said Gandhi preached truth and non-violence, and advocated peace, patience and tolerance in behaviour as lack of these was resulting in road rages.
Advising people to "follow Mahatma Gandhi", she said the motor rally should also create awareness. Besides, she said that as part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, artists from 155 countries have contributed musically in paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi through his favourite bhajan 'Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye' and appealed to people to watch the song on Doordarshan daily in the 8.55-9 pm slot by various countries' artists, sung in Gujarati.
Swaraj said the initiative was taken on the request of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the performance by artists of various nations gave goosebumps to those watching it.
The motor rally will travel through places historically associated with Gandhi, both in India, as well as in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and will pass through Sabarmati, Porbandar, Dandi, Yerwada, Sewagram, Jabalpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, ChauriChaura, Champaran, Shantiniketan and Kolkata in India before travelling to Dhaka in Bangladesh.
It will conclude at Yangon in Myanmar on February 24, covering a total distance of 7,250 km. The rally is part of the year-long celebrations to commemorate the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi in India and across the globe, initiated by the Government of India on October 2 last year. It will take up advocacy on road safety concerns along the route.
Apart from the rally, the event also saw the launch of the Dash Board for Road Accident Data of India and its states. The Society of Indian Automobile Industry also declared 2019 as the Year of Road Safety.
Amar Chitra Katha released a set of comic books on road safety that it has published. This is aimed at creating awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to them.
The Indian Road Safety Campaign of IIT Delhi also launched an intercollegiate competition on the issue. In addition to this, letters will be issued to 135 non-governmental organisations for conducting road safety programmes. Retroreflective stickers on Sadak Suraksha-Jeevan Raksha were also launched on the occasion.
Besides, the ministers also launched the third edition of iSAFE, a 9-month long championship on road safety issues for schools and colleges across India. With over 1,500 colleges participating till date in the earlier editions of the competition, the expected participation this year is of 5,000 colleges.
The best colleges across the nation will be awarded prizes worth Rs 25 lakh as part of the championship. Interested students can register by visiting iSAFE's official website.