The Union government has recently amended the legislation dealing with penalties for offences committed while driving four wheelers. The revised fines / fees / penalties are significantly higher than those earlier, as will be seen from the chart below.
It appears that the intention of the law makers is to curb nuisance caused by reckless driving and incidental chaos. This is no doubt a laudable objective.
However, is it necessary to single out only four wheelers for the indiscipline on the streets? The indiscipline is caused by several persons, some of whom are pedestrians who are jay walking on the streets, hawkers who are peddling their wares on roads, streets and also footpaths, potholes which are not repaired and keep on recurring, et al.
Road safety is the prime responsibility of the government, be it Centre, State or local body like the Municipality. Are they doing their mite? A look at the conditions of the roads in a city like Mumbai will definitely make one’s blood boil. Every year many people die due to road accidents. Are all of these due to drivers’ mistakes? Cases of pillion riders on bikes falling off due to potholes, and then being crushed by the following vehicle are not unheard of. Scores of people have fallen down and broken their bones while walking on the roads / footpaths due to topsy turvey surfaces. Those of us who are brave enough to walk down to Siddhivinayak Temple on Tuesdays from their residences would bear with me, that not even 100 meters road anywhere in Mumbai are without potholes and free from debris. If one has driven even a couple of kilometres on Mumbai roads, one would encounter “bahadurs” who just signal a sign with their palm indicating that now it’s his turn and would barge in front of the cars without even waiting for an acknowledgement. The car driver has to brake his vehicle suddenly, at the cost of being hit by another one behind him!
But instead of penalizing all those responsible for the mess, only car drivers are being penalized, and that too very heavily. If a jay walker comes out of nowhere, and the drviver has to stop to save him, there will be chaos on the streets. The traffic will get messed up, and if by chance the car hits the jay walker, the driver has to take the culprit (now playing victim) to a hospital and face the police, for no fault of his!
The new law unfortunately does not even attempt to take care of this menace. What stops the law makers to empower policemen from taking pictures of such persons and charge them heavy (or even token) penalties. Pending payment, the details may be uploaded on an app using the guy’s Aadhar number. And someday when he goes for any public service, he must be made to pay up the fine.
India seems to be caught up aping the west, where stiff fines do deter drivers from jumping signals and park without responsibility. But in those countries, no pedestrian even attempts to come on the street except at zebra crossings, and that too only when the light is green. If we want to ape the west, why not inculcate such discipline even on pedestrians!
Why not also penalize the municipalities for each pothole which comes up like the proverbial bird of phoenix each monsoon?
Why penalize only car drivers?
A suggestion floating around on social media is worth emulating. Will we ever have a case where following fine are imposed?