A BILL that proposes radical reforms in traffic laws, imposing strict penalties for violations and holding vehicle manufacturers accountable for design defects, found all-round support in Lok Sabha Friday. So did Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, whom Opposition MPs described as a “very good” minister who takes everyone on board.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016 had been introduced in Lok Sabha on August 9, 2016, then referred to the standing committee on transport, tourism and culture. Gadkari said he has incorporated most of the suggestions of the committee, and also those of a group of state transport ministers.
Debating the bill, Congress leader K C Venugopal said Gadkari has been a very “sincere” minister trying hard to address major challenges facing the road transport sector.
BJD member Tathagata Satpathy said Gadkari is a “hardworking person” bent on proving that good work can be done even if the government is bad. “Even in the darkest of night, a single star looks bright,” he said.
At the same time, Gadkari also earned some criticism. Venugopal said he did not like Gadkari’s role in Goa, and that he had played a villain there. When Gadkari intervened to object, it was with a smile.
“Even though knowing about the role of the minister, Nitin Gadkari, in Goa, I cannot admit and approve that role which he has taken in Goa. That is entirely anti-democratic,” Venugopal said. “He took a villain role in Goa for his party.” This drew laughter.
Gadkari responded that he “played villain” because the Congress’s “hero” was asleep. The Congress leader in charge of the Goa elections was Digvijaya Singh.
“Why are you blaming me for your hero falling asleep in the night? Had your hero not fallen asleep, your picture would have been successful. Your hero kept on sleeping,” Gadkari said, drawing more laughter.
Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the Trinamool Congress’s Dinesh Trivedi and a few other Opposition members, too, complimented Gadkari for his performance, bringing a broad smile to the minister’s face.
During his praise, Kharge pointed towards the empty treasury benches, suggesting there was not much appreciation for Gadkari’s work as ruling MPs were absent when he was introducing an important bill.
Satpathy said people in Gadkari’s hometown, Nagpur, are of the view that he is doing excellent work. “I would like to draw his attention to Bhubaneswar,” Satpathy said. “Bhubaneswar is a city which is coming up and growing and you should look at Bhubaneswar with equal love and affection.”
‘Will save many lives’
When he moved the bill for consideration and passage, Gadkari said the law once implemented would “save many lives”. He said five lakh accidents take place every year, leading to around 1.5 lakh deaths. Among various proposals, the bill seeks to protect good samaritans and addresses such as third party insurance. Gadkari said the reforms will come about through “maximum governance with minimum government”.
“Even if you are a minister and you violate traffic rules, a letter will come to your home,” Gadkari said. The Act was a 30-year-old instrument that has “not kept pace with the change of dynamics of road transport & IT,” he said, adding it targets traffic offenders with stringent penal provisions.
Gadkari said around 30 per cent of licences across the country were bogus and a transparent online system will be put in place under which everybody will have to undergo certain tests. “The learner’s licence will be online. But everyone, whether its a leader, actor, journalist or a minister, the person has to go to the RTO office and undergo a test on computer… Once done, the licence has to be given in three days,”Gadkari said.
The bill, he said, seeks to make such services transparent and online and provides for action against officials for delay.
It also proposes an automated intelligent traffic management system under which anyone found flouting rules will face action. Gadkari said the process for registration of vehicles will be made transparent and various documents can be accessed online. “We have created an app into which you can store all your documents. If police stop you and ask for documents, you will be able to access them using your phone,” the minister said.
He said the government has identified 786 black spots in the country and will spend Rs 11,000 crore on these to curb accidents.