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Prioritise lives over commercial, political interests: Victims

Nov 03, 2019

Road crash victims and their families demand for rapid implementation of MVAA, 2019 to ensure safer roads for all.

New Delhi: With the implementation of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 (MVAA, 2019) facing resistance from some quarters, road crash victims and their families came together to make their voices heard. In an open dialogue held at the India Women’s Press Corps, they demanded for rapid implementation of the new road safety law, which they strongly believe will go a long way in protecting all citizens, especially vulnerable road users.

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 was finally passed by the Parliament last month and received Presidential Assent on 9th August. Sixty-three clauses of the MVAA, 2019 came into force on 1st September with a Notification issued by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH).

The implementation of this legislation is momentous for various reasons - the MVAA, 2019 for the first time, introduces reforms such as improvements in driver licensing system, statutes for protection of children and vulnerable road users, recall of faulty vehicles and electronic monitoring & enforcement for road safety.  It holds various stakeholders, including road contractors and engineers accountable, and rationalizes penalties, which remained negligible for decades.

Unfortunately, most of these enabling provisions in the Act have been sidelined amid the noise of steeper fines. Some States have chosen to align with public perception and protests by certain fractions stating that enhanced fines are too high and put an additional burden on the common man.

However, as was evident from the stories shared by the victims, it is in fact the common man who is the worst affected in road crash incidents that cause a huge financial burden and emotional trauma to lakhs of families each year. With young bread earners being killed, road crashes have a tremendous socio-economic impact, with India losing 3% of its GDP every year to this pandemic. Far from inconveniencing the poor, the new fines will only advance their right to safer roads.

Shilpa Mittal, who lost her brother in a tragic crash caused by a juvenile driver, said, “We have all accepted accidents as a very common thing. We take the word accidents so lightly that somebody’s death in a road accident doesn’t even shock us anymore. The acceptance of accidents is not okay.”

Harry Singh, a research scholar, who was paralyzed from waist down after a bike accident, has been undergoing rehabilitation since 2010. “I don’t understand why state governments are not implementing this Act? Why are people focusing on higher penalties? Is the life of a citizen not important?”, he questioned.

Shashank Shekhar, whose brother was in coma for over a year after a road crash added, ““Every hour 17 lives are lost on Indian roads either due to their own carelessness or somebody else’s fault. A family loses all their savings and much more in the care and treatment of their loved ones. This act will ensure that road crash victims and their families get proper compensation.”

Pratishtha Deveshwar, another road accident victim said, ““People are circulating jokes on higher fines. We might laugh at these jokes but what we don’t realize is that road crashes are not a laughing matter. For victims and their families, it is a cruel social reality. Families of victims have to borrow loans and beg for money for the treatment of victims. This act will bring a positive change. Please save lives by being a Good Samaritan and following traffic rules.”

Also present at the occasion was Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation who said, “In the past decade 15 lakh people have lost their lives to road crashes and close to a crore have been left seriously injured or permanently disabled. We all know someone who has been drastically affected by the issue, and that is why most people have welcomed the new law.

The human and economic cost imposed by the issue on lakhs of families is far more than a few thousand rupees of increase in fines. We should not think about trying to lower the fines where it becomes affordable. If it’s affordable, it’s not a fine. The need of the hour is for State Governments to train their Police personnel to be courteous to road users and incorporate technology in enforcement to weed out corruption”.

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