Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport, cleared the final version of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill this week that would not just hike penalties for traffic offences from 100 rupees to 500, introduce a jail term for people who let kids drive their vehicles but also help pin the blame for accidents due to faulty designs on road planners and contractors.
A parliamentary panel that looked at the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in August last had recommended some changes including penalties for road planners who do a shoddy job. Mr Gadkari too has long argued that bad roads and not just bad drivers kill people on Indian roads, the deadliest in the world.
The minister has also cleared the panel's suggestion to remove the cap on compensation to be paid for road deaths. The existing cap is 5 lakh rupees which the government had earlier proposed to double. But the parliamentary panel felt there was no need to protect insurance companies from higher claims.
A government official told NDTV that the road ministry had accepted most of the major recommendations and expressed the hope that parliament too would be able to take up the bill at an early date.
When the road ministry started working on the overhaul of the law in 2002, road accidents annually killed 81,000 people. In 2015, this figure had shot up to 1.46 lakh, an average of 400 deaths every day and 16, every hour.
Penalties for traffic violations haven't been raised since 1988 when fine for general offences such as red-light jumping was fixed at 100 rupees and is hardly a deterrent. In cities such as Delhi, the police have improvised on the law and often penalise motorists who jump a red-light for reckless driving as well that comes with a 1,000 penalty.